The part that Coaldale Hospital plays in meeting the health needs of residents of the Panther Valley area can be attributed to the men and women who worked hard nearly a century ago to get the hospital off the ground.
Those comments were made Saturday night by Sister Marian William Hoben, president of Immaculata College in Chester County, during Coaldale Hospital's 75th anniversary dinner held in Marian Catholic High School, Hometown.
Hoben told more than 300 people that the miners who gave money out of their own pockets to help construct the first hospital were not thinking only of themselves, but of the future of the area. She said the miners displayed the "Mark of the Valley" by showing faith, vision and commitment.
"We do owe a debt to the past. We come to honor the past and reaffirm the present to ensure a bright future for those who come after us," said Hoben.
The Coaldale native said the past and the future of the hospital is not a job that one person can handle. "Coaldale Hospital was not the work of one person, and the future is up to more than one person," she said.
Although the residents of the area and employees did not have to fight for construction or additions to the hospital, Hoben said, their duties in some cases are more difficult today. She said some present-day diseases, and decisions that have to be made about them, would have "blown the minds" of the first doctors.
Hoben served on Gov. Dick Thornburgh's Citizen Advisory Committee to ensure equal opportunity in higher education from 1983 to 1985.
Marshall Jost, hospital administrator, said the Coaldale family has worked to make the hospital as good as it can be. "Employees at all levels, and physicians, provide service with care and compassion," he said.
Although hospital officials have begun the first steps to remove the facility from state control, Jost said the hospital will continue to provide quality care for another 75 years.
Florence Tarlton, president of the board of trustees of the hospital, said, "Much has been accomplished by our hospital over the years with service to the Panther Valley area.
Local and state officials also spoke, as did Dr. William Maroun, hospital chief of staff.
Miss Pocono, Carla Jenkins of Pottsville, offered several vocal selections during the program.
A total of 32 hospital employees were honored with service awards, presented by Robert E. Ames, chairman of the 75th anniversary committee. They were: Blanche Herring of Lake Hauto, 37 years; Florence Janis of Lansford, Joseph D. Conahan of Coaldale, Mildred Kaiser of Tamaqua, Bernardine F. Marczyk of Nesquehoning, and Margaret Eva of Tamaqua, 30 years each; Joan B. Bobarsky of Coaldale, Annamae Demetriades of Lansford, Mary A. Fredericks of Coaldale, Rosanne C. Gardiner of Nesquehoning, and Edward M. Kruczek of Summit Hill, all 25 years each; and Jean Linkhurst of Tamaqua, 21 years.
The following employees were honored for having 20 years of service: Eleanor Figner, Olga H. Macalush, Virginia A. Mikolay, Stanely P. Racis, Martha Keich, Helen Butts, Marie E. Castagna, and James F. Dever, all of Coaldale; Marilyn Felsoci, Nancy A. Nunemacher, and Hazel M. Whitley, all of Tamaqua; Lois C. Gates and Roberta Brimmer, both of Lansford; Anne M. Lill, Marie O'Donnell, Frances J. Byldon, and Mary L. Carulli, all of Summit Hill; Mabel E. Jones and Ruth J. Balliet, both of Mahanoy City, and Yolanda Kociolek of Nesquehoning.
After being chartered in 1907 as the Panther Valley Creek Hospital, construction began in 1909, and the facility was opened July 11, 1910.
Miners in the Panther Valley area donated more than $12,000 for construction costs, and that amount was matched by the former Lehigh Coal and Navigation Co. Receipts from other sources raised the total to $50,000, and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania appropriated $20,000.
The state was asked to take over the hospital in August 1911, and the transfer was finally formally completed on Sept. 1, 1920. The name change to Coaldale State General Hospital became effective that date.
On Aug. 9, 1911, a fire, attributed to a short-circuit, erupted on the upper floor of the hospital, damaging most of the section. Patients were taken to and treated in the home of John R. Boyle and several other homes he owned on West Ridge Street in Coaldale. The hospital was repaired and reopened in October of 1911.
In 1920, a new addition was started as a community effort, raising more than $100,000. The state appropriated $25,000.
Ground was broken in 1927 for the wing to be used as a training school and nurses' home. The Depression interrupted work, and the wing finally was completed in 1934.
Ground was broken Oct. 14, 1970 for the present $9.5 million facility, ending five years of planning, which began with the 1965 request to the Department of Public Welfare. The new hospital was dedicated Oct. 15, 1973.