June 17, 2020 marks the 100th anniversary of Julia Rackley Perry Memorial Hospital in Princeton, Illinois. It all started more than 100 years ago thanks to the generosity of a woman from Malden, Illinois.
Having lost her only son and suffered much during her own life, Julia Rackley Perry saw the value of providing community healthcare as a means to relieve the suffering of others.
When she died in 1913, Julia left in her will more than $50,000 to establish a public hospital in Princeton, After years of failed private and public attempts at a hospital, Julia had finally made a hospital possible.
The City of Princeton passed an ordinance in 1916 to officially establish the hospital, and proceeded with construction. In 1918, the nation was faced with World War I and the Spanish Flu. Supplies were becoming scarce, delayed, and expensive. Labor and transportation options were limited. And communities were faced with quarantine due to recurring influenza outbreaks. The Spanish Flu even claimed the life of Parker Noble Berry, a Princeton native who was hired as architect for the new hospital.
Although Perry Memorial Hospital was expected to open on November 1, 1918, construction was delayed for 20 months. Julia Rackley Perry Memorial Hospital finally opened on June 17, 1920. It sat where the Medical Office Building is now, and had only enough space for 28 patients and 5 babies.
A century ago, global challenges deeply affected our small community and almost prevented Perry Memorial Hospital from ever opening. Those same types of challenges have threatened our hospital ever since, but we have endured. The past 100 years have been a testament to our employees and their perseverance, their unyielding desire to care for our community.
Today, we should be proud that Perry Memorial Hospital has worked to position itself for modern needs and long-term care into the next century. In 1920, who would have ever thought we would be at this point? Our organization has grown to boast eight clinics, 25 Perry-employed providers, dozens of visiting specialty providers, five facilities (including the new Family Health Clinic), three volunteer groups that support our needs (the Auxiliary, Foundation, and Gold Coats), an Emergency Department staffed 24/7 by board-certified physicians, mental health services for all ages, and most importantly, our amazing staff.
100 years ago, Perry Memorial Hospital faced the Spanish Flu, and now our employees and community are rallying together to endure the COVID-19 pandemic. Although our ability to celebrate is limited, this year is still a great opportunity to leave our mark on 2020 and our 100th anniversary.
Just remember: Practice social distancing, wear your mask, and for heaven’s sake remember to always wash your hands! We Listen. We Care. We are Perry.