Shortly after the turn of the 20th Century, Reverend Mother Ann of Jesus traveled to Plattsburgh from Ottawa, Ontario, in search of support for a new local hospital.
Representing the Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart, she went from door to door, traveling by horse and buggy, to raise money for the project from city residents.
Her efforts helped pave the way for the creation and construction of Champlain Valley Hospital, which offered an open house the weekend of June 11, 1910, and accepted its first patients June 22, 1910.
"It was the first hospital of its kind in the Champlain Valley," said Marceline Kavanagh, who graduated from the hospital's School of Nursing in 1953 and went on to work at Champlain Valley until its merger with Physician's Hospital in 1972.
"The hospital's Hanlon Ward was named after the local family who offered to take Sister Ann around the community when she was raising money."
OF EVERY CREED
The hospital was originally incorporated under the State Board of Charities in 1903. Its initial charter was "for the purpose of affording medical and surgical aid and nursing to the sick and disabled persons of every creed, nationality and color."
A location was found on Rugar Street, and the first cornerstone was laid July 2, 1906. The cost of building and equipping the facility reached $129,500, nearly half of which was raised by the local community.
Physicians Hospital, on the corner of William and Court streets, opened a few months later in January 1911.
Initially, Champlain Valley Hospital had space for up to 120 patients. A new wing was added in 1954, and the traditional medical, surgical, obstetrical and outpatient services were expanded to include electrotherapy, X-ray, pathology and diet therapy.
"It was a lovely hospital," said Kavanagh, who has been the chair of the School of Nursing's Alumni Association for the past 35 years.
The School of Nursing originated in 1910 as well, and nursing students took classes and roomed in the building adjacent to the new hospital for their three-year stint. In 1913, the school was registered with the Regents of the University of New York and was officially recognized.
"My memory of working with the nuns was that we were very happy, but they were hard days and long days," Kavanagh said of the three-year program. "Everyone was very nice and helpful. Yes, there was a high turnover, like any nursing program, but the nurses who graduated were qualified providers."
The Class of '53 began with 35 students and graduated 25, Kavanagh noted. As a nurse per diem at CVPH at age 78, she believes she is the only nurse still working from her graduating class, though she has kept close contact with most of her classmates over the years.
The oldest living graduate of the School of Nursing is Thelma Neveu of Beekmantown, who graduated in 1937. Neveu then worked for several years for both Champlain Valley and Physicians hospitals.
She went on to earn her bachelor's RN degree and master's degree in educaMaster's degree in education on a part-time basis while continuing her nursing degree. She then worked as a school nurse/teacher in the City School District for 23 years, retiring at 63.