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PROGRESS 2013

D2 SUNDAY, MAY 26, 2013

Our Town Welcome to Our Town, the Telegraph’s annual look at progress throughout North Platte. We’ve chosen this year to investigate the changes in a variety of areas over the past half-century. In the first installment of Our Town on May 5, we took a look at how entities throughout North Platte have evolved, from the city’s growth and changes in law enforcement to construction. In today’s issue of Our Town, we explore improvements to Lincoln County’s infrastructure, additions to the church community, dramatic developments in health care and changes that Nebraskaland Days has taken over the years. Plus, there are all kinds of historical tidbits about the last five decades. So take a few minutes for a sentimental journey through North Platte’s history over the past 50 years.

North Platte history trivia

Q.

Where was old Gibson’s Discount Center located?

THE NORTH PLATTE TELEGRAPH

A more modern county Lincoln Co. takes big steps forward with construction, organization, technology BY HEATHER JOHNSON hjohnson@nptelegraph.com

sk Lincoln County officials what the biggest change has been to the county in the past 50 years, and the general consensus will likely be efficiency. Numerous upgrades have been made through better organization and new construction.

A

Office restructuring Nadine Heath witnessed many changes during her tenure at the Lincoln County Courthouse. She began working in the clerk’s office in 1947 — back when she was in high school. At that time, the county clerk was also the county assessor. Heath said the responsibilities included running the title department, organizing elections and doing assessments. The jobs were split in the early 1950s. “One of the things that happened over the years was that workloads increased,” Heath said. “A lot of that was because of changes to state laws. Bigger workloads meant more responsibilities and more people to do the work. It was getting crowded, and additional space was needed.” A new east wing on the courthouse was opened in 1967. The extra room allowed employees to spread out. “The car title department had been in the clerk’s office,” Heath said. “The county assessor did assessments there, and the treasurer did car taxes. It was all combined into one office. Eventually, they

transferred it all over to be overseen by the county treasurer.” Heath said Lincoln County was one of the first in Nebraska to have a “one stop shop” for car titles. “Now, it’s the thing across the state,” Heath said. The Nebraska State Patrol also had an office in the courthouse in the late 1940s and early 1950s. According to Heath, it was in the southwest corner on the third floor. The area currently used for storage on the fourth floor was a sleeping area. “It had cots and bathroom facilities, so out of town people called for jury duty could stay there,” Heath said. “The county attorney’s office was on the second floor. When they opened up the new section, the welfare department took up the area on the first floor where the county attorney’s office is now.” According to Heath, the welfare office relocated to the Craft State Office Building in the 1970s.

Telegraph file photo

The Sutherland State Aid Bridge, about four miles north of Sutherland, is one of the many projects Lincoln County is working on. Officials hope to begin the replacement process within the next six years.

Going electronic Heath became the county clerk in 1982. Up to that time, paper hand-counted election ballots had been used. “After I went into office, we went to punch cards,” Heath said. “We didn’t use them too many elections before we went to optic scan.” She witnessed the start of file sharing between offices via computer before she resigned in 1997. She said there were a few growing pains along the way, but overall the upgrades were well accepted.

“We started out with some of the offices having a computer where we did all the payroll and all the budget work,” Heath said. “Then, some other office needed one. Finally, they went to a mainframe computer that would handle a lot of offices.” Joe Hewgley, a commissioner since 1985, has also been part of the move toward an electronic world. “I would guess the next improvements would also be cyber,”

Hewgley said. “I’ve already talked to our IT guy about cloud computing. Over the next decade, that will probably need to be addressed, as will workplace efficiencies.”

Partnerships with the city Hewgley listed the consolidation of three roads departments into one as the most notable achievement of the 1980s. He said prior to 1986, each commissioner oversaw a roads

department in his district. “It was terribly inefficient and wasteful,” Hewgley said. “There were pieces of equipment only used once or twice a year at a particular department, but that district had to have it because other districts did.” The idea of sharing services with the city and adjoining counties also developed over the years. Those included the services of the Please see COUNTY, Page D7

1620 E. Fourth St., the current site of Gary’s Superfoods.

A.


THE NORTH PLATTE TELEGRAPH

PROGRESS 2013

SUNDAY, MAY 26, 2013

D3

North Platte history trivia

Q.

Where was W.T. Grants located? Corner of Fourth and Dewey (where Wells Fargo Bank is).

A.

Courtesy photo

By 2010, Great Plains Regional Medical Center had been expanded numerous times. It’s about to change again with the construction of a $100 million five-story tower in the center of the building.

Medical marvel Local health I care makes great strides in 50 years

BY HEATHER JOHNSON hjohnson@nptelegraph.com

f there’s one thing that has changed substantially in North Platte over the past 50 years, it’s health care. Much advancement has occurred in terms of the facilities, types of services and number of doctors available. “The vision has always been to grow and serve the region,” Greg Nielsen, CEO of Great Plains Regional Medical Center, said. “That began with the forefathers.” Nielsen said the

number of physicians has tripled since the hospital opened in 1975 — increasing from around 30 to about 90. GPRMC has also jumped from 330 employees in 1977 to 885 employees in 2013. Reaching those milestones took time, dedication and vision. As is often the case with progress, change did not always come easy. Despite remarks from a state health official that North Platte was one of the weakest towns in the state in terms of hospital facilities, some people liked things just the way they were.

New era with new specialties In the past decade, GPRMC has introduced 10 new specialties: cardiology, neurology, pain medicine and rehabilitation, infectious disease, interventional radiology, endocrinology, hand surgery, hospitalists, pulmonology and urology. Additionally, the hospital now offers cardiology outreach clinics in Grant, Imperial and Oshkosh. In May, another cardiology clinic will be launched in McCook.

To subscribe call 532-6000

Courtesy photos

One town, 2 hospitals

The history

Two hospitals of approximately 50 beds each existed in North Platte in the 1960s and early 1970s. They were Memorial, currently the North Platte Police Department at 701 S. Jeffers St., and St. Mary, which was located in the Craft State Office Building, 200 S. Silber St. “Having two hospitals was a problem,” Dr. Gary Conell said. “We had to run to two different places to make rounds in the morning. We did obstetrics at Memorial and none at St. Mary. Plus, there was a community rift. I had patients who said they would die before going to Memorial and vice versa.” Bob Phares, North Platte mayor from 1968-1976, said there were also some doctors who only worked at one hospital or the other. Physicians who went to both had to become accustomed to separate medical staffs. “Eventually, both hospitals had the feeling they needed to do some expansion in order to serve the medical needs of the community,” Phares said. “What we were going to end up with was a significant amount of duplication. We want-

ed to avoid that. We also wanted to broaden the physician base to be in a position where we could add a lot of specialties.” He said it made sense when a consultant came up with the idea of consolidation. However, Memorial was landlocked and St. Mary, which had more space, was an old building. Ultimately, the boards and physicians at both hospitals decided to construct a new facility. Phares organized the North Platte Hospital Planning Council on July 18, 1969, to work on the project.

Wheels turn According to historical records compiled by Keith Blackledge, former North Platte Telegraph editor, Great Plains Medical Center, Inc. was formed as a non-profit organization on Feb. 10, 1971. A fundraising campaign began on Nov. 13, 1972. The goal was to collect $1.2 million, and the theme was “One Hospital — More Doctors.” Dale Walkenhorst, then president of First National Bank, was named campaign chairman. Meanwhile, GPRMC

Prices in the last 50 years Average cost of ...

A Car 1963 1973 1983 2003

$2,300 $3,650 $8,500 $25,523

A House 1963 $19,300 1973 $32,500 1983 $75,300 2003 $195,000

Wages 1963 1973 1983 2003

$4,397 $7,580 $15,239 $34,065

Stamps 1963 1973 1983 2003

$0.04 $0.08 $0.24/27 $0.37

Time and Temperature 532-6007 YOUR SOURCE since 1881

Please see MEDICAL, Page D8

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Above: A nurse and nun organize a room at St. Mary Hospital in the 1940s. St. Mary later consolidated with Memorial Hospital. Currently, only one hospital exists in North Platte — Great Plains Regional Medical Center. Below: In the 1960s, Memorial Hospital was where the North Platte Police Department is currently at 701 S. Jeffers St.

Bill Summers Celebrating 14 Years of serving North Platte and Western Nebraska.

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PROGRESS 2013

D4 SUNDAY, MAY 26, 2013

North Platte history trivia

Q.

Where was the old Montgomery Wards located? At the corner of Fifth and Dewey streets.

A.

Q.

What store had Santa Claus greeting children at the top of a ramp?

A.

W.J. O’Connor’s

Q.

Where was the old Dog N Suds located?

A.

At 825 S. Jeffers

Q.

Where was the first fire station located?

A.

The corner of Front and Vine

Q.

Where was the old Woolworth’s located? At 214 E. Fifth — but the store was “L” shaped and had a storefront on Dewey Street as well.)

A.

VISIT US ONLINE AT WWW.NPTELEGRAPH.COM FOR MORE NEWS

THE NORTH PLATTE TELEGRAPH

Nebraska’s best party The right choices, hard work lead to a more successful state celebration By HEATHER JOHNSON hjohnson@nptelegraph.com

The state’s official celebration has come a long way since its humble beginnings nearly 50 years ago. Nebraskaland Days has gained both in strength and popularity since then, boasting an attendance of approximately 85,000 in 2012. Success didn’t happen overnight. It also was not by chance. “A lot of the credit has to go to the forefathers for giving us a foundation to build on,” David Fudge, NLD executive director, said. “They worked their butts off to put on a quality celebration, and we’ve tried to follow that example ever since.”

The beginning The Nebraska Game, Forestation and Parks Commission, which oversaw state tourism in the early 1960s, was initially in charge of NLD. The first celebration was in 1965 in Lincoln. Dick Schaffer was the director of the information and tourism division at the time. During an interview for an article in 1999, he told Keith Blackledge, former North Platte Telegraph editor, there wasn’t enough interest in the city of Lincoln to have NLD there. Game Commission officials decided the event needed a permanent home in the western part of the state and put it up for bid. “Lincoln was missing an important ingredient,” Jim Whitaker, original NLD board member, said. “It didn’t have the history of rodeo like North Platte did. We had Buffalo Bill and his Wild West Show. America’s first organized rodeo was in 1882 in the area that is now the Cody Park pond.” Whitaker said five towns submitted bids, but he could not remember which ones they were aside from North Platte. According to Fudge, historical records that would have shown that information were lost over the years. “We thought it would be wonderful to have Nebraskaland Days because not only was it a statewide celebration that was family-oriented, but it also had the potential for huge economic benefits,” Whitaker said. “North Platte was and still is a good location for it. At that time, we had more hotel rooms than any other Nebraska town outside of Lincoln and Omaha.” The community also had an airport, two major highways

Courtesy photos

Above: Former Nebraska governor Kay Orr, President Ronald Reagan and actor Charlie Evans spoke to a crowd of about 10,000 people at the Wild West Arena in 1987. Reagan stopped in North Platte on his way to a vacation in California. Below right: People sit down to eat during the prime rib feed at Nebraskaland Days in 1969.

and an interstate running through it, making it easily accessible to travelers. North Platte won the right to host NLD by one vote. “It was close,” Whitaker said. “We made some promises that we weren’t sure we could keep. That was with the courage of Ken Huebner, the mayor at the time. He told the people in Lincoln that if we got the bid, the city would back it with $25,000. He stuck his neck out because he didn’t take a vote of the council until after he returned. Luckily,

the council backed him.”

Crunch time Additional money for the celebration was raised through sponsorships and the sale of memberships by an NLD board. The 10 original board members were Ken Hornbacher, John Grothe, Jim Seacrest, Dale Studley, Stan Bussell, Bob Bale, Claude Evans and Neal Baxter. Whitaker was named general chairman, and Bob Gambs was selected co-chairman. Seacrest, Baxter and

Whitaker are the only ones still alive. “My job was what the executive director does,” Whitaker said. “Except, back then we didn’t have any money to pay anybody. Someone else was originally appointed to the position, but got transferred out of town, so I got dragged into the mix.” The board had four months and two weeks to prepare for the celebration. Whitaker said none of the board members had seen NLD in Lincoln, so didn’t have experience to draw off of. They started from scratch creating committees, dividing up responsibilities and going doorto-door recruiting volunteers. “I panicked after I got involved,” Whitaker said. “I don’t know how we had the time to do it, but we did. We were all inexperienced, but we guessed right more than we guessed wrong. We got up to $45,000-$50,000 with help from membership sales. That was our operating budget that first year.” Because of the limited preparation time, the first NLD in North Platte was at the Lincoln County Fairgrounds in 1968. It featured “20 major events,” including a powwow, square dance, muzzle loading competition and mock “shoot-outs.” In 1971, the celebration was relocated to what is currently the Wild West Arena, 2400 N. Buffalo Bill Ave. Whitaker said the Game Commission purchased the property from the Kuhlmann family. The arena is located across from William Cody’s mansion and was once part of his ranch.

Events in the last 50 years

Continue reading on the next page

Celebrity deaths 1963

1973 1983

Kentucky Derby Winners

2003

1963 1973 1983 2003 2013

2013

Chateaugay Secretariat Sunny’s Halo Funny Cide Orb

Number 1 TV Show 1963 1973 1983 2003

The Beverly Hillbillies All in the Family Dallas American Idol

President John F. Kennedy, assassination Patsy Cline, airplane crash Jim Croce, air plane crash Karen Carpenter, heart failure John Ritter, heart attack George Jones

Academy Award Winning Films 1963 1973 1983 2003

2013

Tom Jones The Sting Terms of Endearment Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King Argo


PROGRESS 2013

THE NORTH PLATTE TELEGRAPH

SUNDAY, MAY 26, 2013

D5

“The celebration is better than any of us in the original group ever dreamed of, because we didn’t even know if it was going to last. We were lucky, and we all loved doing something as big as NLD for the community. It was an honor to be a part of something like that.”

— JIM WHITAKER, FOUNDING NEBRASKALAND DAYS BOARD MEMBER AND FORMER MAYOR

Huge growth

Originally a one-week event, NLD has since expanded to two weeks. Fudge said it has lured in tourists from every state in the U.S. and countries around the globe. It was especially prosperous in the 1980s and 1990s. “That was the heyday of the celebration,” Fudge said. “We saw some explosive growth partly because of increased publicity and because of the addition of grandstand shows. NLD had some of the biggest acts in rodeo and country music during that time. North Platte was centrally located, and artists could hit it on their way to pretty much anywhere.” Some of the stars included Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson and Randy Travis. National dignitaries also made NLD their destination. President Ronald Reagan attended in 1987. He spoke to approximately 15,000 people crowded into the Wild West Arena. His speech was delivered from a special stage built in front of the bucking chutes.

Hard times The prosperity didn’t last, however. Fudge referred to 1998 through 2007 as the “tough years” for NLD. Increased competition from area music festivals, such as Comstock, put pressure on people’s attention and wal-

Courtesy photo

The cast of the Frontier Revue sings during a Nebraskaland Days performance in 1969.

lets. Fudge said poor business decisions in the early 2000s also contributed to the problem. “There was a time when this organization nearly folded,” Fudge said. “I’d say that was 2004 to 2006. I was invited to join the board in 2005, and I remember seeing the operating loan for that year. It was scary.”

The addition of fiscally astute board members helped change the trend. Fudge said everything from the cost of trashcan liners to the number of draws available in a keg was assessed. Concerts by Big and Rich in 2005 and by Sugarland in 2006 also helped with the bailout. “One decision in particular got us back on the map,”

Fudge said. “We hired a concert promoter in 2009.” The promoter snagged musicians Brad Paisley in 2011, Toby Keith last year and Kid Rock for this summer.

Looking ahead Fudge said this year would be the last time the celebration would spread over three weekends. Next year, it will

go to an 11-day format so people can see a rodeo and a concert within a week. Other future plans include continued maintenance on the Wild West Arena, which was neglected when money was tight. “One of the biggest challenges we’ll have is exposing rodeo to a new consumer,” Fudge said. “We want to get more and younger butts in those grandstand seats. We’re always trying to make NLD better without losing sight of who we are.” Originally, the goal was to make NLD rival Cheyenne Frontier Days. Whitaker said he doesn’t think that’s happened, yet. “Frontier Days has a wonderful history,” Whitaker said. “They’re a bigger town and have a fantastic show. We picked their brains and learned from them. They supported us along the way, but I don’t think we equal them.” Despite that, he’s proud of how far NLD has come. “The board has done a really good job,” Whitaker said. “The celebration is better than any of us in the original group ever dreamed of, because we didn’t even know if it was going to last. We were lucky, and we all loved doing something as big as NLD for the community. It was an honor to be a part of something like that.”


PROGRESS 2013

D6 SUNDAY, MAY 26, 2013

THE NORTH PLATTE TELEGRAPH

Foundation in faith By DEB EGENBERGER deb.egenberger@nptelegraph.com

If nationwide research holds true in North Platte, roughly 21 percent of local residents attend a worship service of one denomination or another on a weekly basis. That’s in the neighborhood of 5,000 local folks gathered every weekend. To accommodate an increasing number of worshippers, the church community has changed and expanded over the years, swelling to 51 places of worship, though some congregations may not be fully registered as churches. North Platte’s churches have evolved to meet the city’s needs, just as businesses, schools and industries have. Some churches date back to the earliest of settlers who were anxious to share their beliefs as the United States grew to the west. For instance, Father James Ryan came to North Platte from Columbus to celebrate Catholic Mass in a house west of the Union Pacific depot in 1867, the same year the city of North Platte was officially founded. Three Catholic parishes have since grown from those roots. The First Presbyterian Church developed shortly after that, chartered in 1873. Its growing congregation maintained, remodeled and added onto a building at Fourth and Willow streets from 1910 until 2000 when the new church was christened. Other churches came later. Bethel Evangelical Free Church was chartered nearly 60 years ago and now boasts between 700 and 800 attendees. Harvest Christian Fellowship, a segment of the larger worldwide Wesleyan Church, has seen the same kind of monumental attendance increase. Changes abound throughout the North Platte church community over the past 50 years. Following is a small sampling of developments in a few local churches.

Courtesy photos

First Presbyterian: A long history in NP The First Presbyterian Church was founded in 1873, but the congregation didn’t have its own place of worship until the summer of 1878. The church’s first building was built on Spruce Street, now Dewey. The cornerstone of a new church was laid in 1908 at the corner of Fourth and Willow streets and the long-standing brick served its people until October of 2000. Members celebrated their first service in a larger, more modern facility on Leota Street on Oct. 22, 2000, and were able to burn the mortgage on the new church in 2007.

First Presbyterian Church Founded in 1873, the First Presbyterian Church was also one of the first established in North Platte, although the congregation didn’t have its own worship space until 1878. A cornerstone was laid in 1908 at Fourth and Willow streets with a new brick building dedicated in June 1910. A fellowship hall and youth education wing were added in 1955 and the narthex and entryway were completed along with a remodeling in 1964. The old church served the congregation well, said longtime member Larry Peterson, but an increasing membership had it bursting at the seams. A building committee

began working on options and purchased a lot on West Leota Street in the early 1980s. “They were thinking ahead,” said Peterson, who serves as the treasurer on the church’s board of elders. “When we really started working on the design, the lot was already paid for and we had a professional fundraising group help us with the rest of it.” Ground was broken on West Leota in September 1999. Within a week in the middle of October 2000, the congregation celebrated its last service in the old building and its first service in the new one. “Any time you move into a

new facility, it brings about a positive attitude,” Peterson said. “People feel good about what they have and everybody takes pride in it.” The old building at Fourth and Willow was auctioned in August 2001 and the Presbyterian congregation burned the mortgage for its new building in 2007. Peterson said the church has roughly 300 members who attend a single Sunday service week.

Three Catholic churches In 1874, Father Patrick Lynch built North Platte’s first Catholic church — St. Patrick’s Parish — at Fourth

and Chestnut. A larger brick building replaced it in 1883. The present brick church was constructed in 1949 and dedicated in 1950, and a later renovation was dedicated in 1996. In the meantime, Bishop John Sullivan announced in 1973 that St. Patrick’s Parish had grown large enough to be divided. Masses for Holy Spirit Catholic Church were celebrated in the McDonald Elementary School multi-purpose room until Nelson Hall and the narthex were opened on West E Street in 1974. The present worship area was dedicated in 1979 with an office and classrooms added to Nelson Hall 10 years

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later and renovations to the worship area completed in just the last couple of years. A third Catholic church was officially created in June 1994, not necessarily to accommodate increased attendance at the other two churches but rather to fulfill a need in the Lincoln Diocese south of the Platte River. Current priest Father Mark Seiker said planning for the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton parish started much earlier when Father John Glaves, the pastor of St. James Parish in Curtis, began working on a census of Catholics in 1964.

Continue reading on the next page

Did you know? In 1963, the lava lamp was invented and AT&T introduced the first touch-tone phone. In 1973, Federal Express (now known as FedEx) began operations. In 1983, Space Shuttle Challenger had its maiden flight. In 2003, the last “old-style” VW rolled off its production line in Mexico.


PROGRESS 2013

THE NORTH PLATTE TELEGRAPH

It wasn’t until January 1970 when the Diocese of Lincoln purchased the 10 acres of land where the church and rectory have been built at 3301 Echo Drive. Father Gary Brethour was the church’s first pastor, and Seiker said the first masses were celebrated in the cafeteria at MidPlains Community College from August 1994 until the parish hall was finished in March 1996. The parish hall served not only as a church but also a meeting area and dining room. Offices and a rectory were added in 2001 and the final piece, the sanctuary, was completed and dedicated in 2011. “Our church was basically built one

piece at a time, each staying with the master plan,” Seiker said. “It was a big project and it’s a beautiful building. Our parish is very proud.”

Bethel Evangelical Free Church Although much younger than St. Pat’s or the Presbyterian church, Bethel Evangelical Free Church has seen similar growth. Chartered almost 60 years ago, the first Bethel church was on the east side of North Platte, according to church administrator Jim Nelson. In the early 1970s, the church moved to Please see FAITH, Page D8

SUNDAY, MAY 26, 2013

D7

COUNTY from Page D2

roads department, law enforcement, fire and rescue, planning administrator, information technology, child support and the extension office. “Several interlocals started in the 1980s, but they expanded and grew in the 1990s,” Hewgley said. “The combining and efficient use of buildings, personnel and equipment has meant a direct savings of many thousands of tax dollars.” Shortly after he became a commissioner, Hewgley found another way to cut spending — by eliminating unnecessary jobs. “I had noticed two women from the custodial department walking up and down the courthouse halls, but I never saw them cleaning,” Hewgley said. “As it turned out, they only cleaned the women’s restrooms. One of them had inherited the job from her mother.” He said the positions were both full time, but because it didn’t take long to clean the bathrooms, the women spent the majority of their time sitting in the lounge and getting paid for it. “It didn’t take long for that to stop,” Hewgley said.

Telegraph file photo

The Birdwood Viaduct project is currently underway west of Bailey Yard. The project is on target to be finished by the spring of 2014.

speaks for itself. The old facility was dangerous, and we were expending Hewgley has also been so much money farming part of numerous build- inmates out.” ing projects over the The Birdwood Viaduct years. One of the most project is currently beprominent was the deming built on the west olition of the old jail end of Bailey Yard. It’s and creation of a new one. The Lincoln Coun- been discussed for years as an extra evacuation ty Sheriff ’s Office and route out of town and as Detention Center was a way to alleviate condedicated Nov. 16, 2011, gestion at nearby railfollowing two attempts at financing and months road crossings. In February, the of struggle over flawed Sutherland State Aid construction. “The new jail is work- Bridge, which crosses the North Platte River ing absolutely incredialong Prairie Trace ble,” Hewgley said. Road, was put on a Lin“The safety thing

County infrastructure

coln County plan for replacement. It’s part of an aggressive stance the county has taken to replace deficient bridges. The fact that it’s only one lane makes it hard for farmers in the area to drive across. Officials have expressed concern that the banks where the bridge is anchored are eroding, which could eventually result in a collapse of the structure. Jerry Hitchcock, highway superintendent, said he expects the wheels to turn on the project within the next six years.

Courtesy photo

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church was a long time in the making. Although planning for the church in the Lincoln Diocese began in 1964, but the parish was not officially formed until August 1994 when Father Gary Brethour began celebrating Mass in the cafeteria of Mid-Plains Community College. The parish hall was built first in 1996; offices and the rectory were added in 2001. The final piece to be constructed, the sanctuary, completed the sprawling project in 2011.

Did you know?

In 1963, the first commercial nuclear reactor went online at the Jersey Central Power Company.


PROGRESS 2013

D8 SUNDAY, MAY 26, 2013

THE NORTH PLATTE TELEGRAPH

MEDICAL

FAITH

from Page D3

from Page D7

secured an option on a piece of farmland that stretched north to Philip Avenue and south to what is currently Leota Street. Blackledge’s files indicate the campaign got off to a fast start. Seven days after it began, 17 physicians had pledged a total of $145,000. About a month later, the amount had jumped to $571,000. By May of 1973, more than $1 million had been raised. “Community support for the campaign was pretty good,” Conell said. “But, like any controversial type of thing there were three or four physicians steadfastly against having a single hospital. They thought competition was a good thing.” The potential for progress was one of the main reasons Connell moved to North Platte in August 1972. “North Platte had the greatest need of all the communities I considered, but it’s reputation was not very sterling,” Conell said. “The dean of students at the university called and asked if I understood what problems there were in North Platte. I said I thought North Platte was in a key situation. I knew there would be a big change, and I wanted to be a part of that change. I’m still glad I’m here.”

the corner of Third and Eastman streets, where it stayed until 2005 when a new worship center was built at 2700 W. Philip. “We have such a success story,” Nelson said. “We’ve already almost doubled in size since we moved in 2005. As our congregation gets larger, we’ve needed to have more staff members who are becoming more specialized.” The new building was planned in three phases. The first phase was the worship center that opened in 2005. In 2011, more classrooms were completed in a second phase to accommodate and ever-growing youth section of ministry. Nelson said sometime in the next five or so years, the third phase of construction will likely begin as the church adds to its worship area. “We’ve grown to between 700 and 800 in our congregation,” Nelson said. “We’ve had a lot of response to our great preaching staff and our youth programs. It’s just such a blessing.” Bethel Evangelical Free now uses three separate weekend services to reach its still-growing congregation.

Courtesy photo

A 1973 aerial photograph shows the farmland that would eventually become home to Great Plains Regional Medical Center. It stretches from Phillip Avenue to Leota Street.

addition. The facility was the first in the state to do artificial knee surgery. n In 1983, the hospital board opted to discontinue a management agreement with the A new beginning Lutheran Hospitals and Homes Society. The word “regional” Great Plains Medical Center was added to the name. opened in 1975 at 601 W. Leota n In 1986 the same day surSt. Historic files from the medgery unit, recovery room and ical center show multiple updietary department were exgrades that have been made panded in an $84,000 project. since then. Phares was present Cindy Bradley became the hosfor most of them as he served pital administrator. on and off the board up until n In 1987, a $1.2 million reno2006. vation was done on the Medical n In 1976, a new medical arts Arts Building. Another 2,400 building was constructed west square feet of space were added of the hospital, allowing space so radiation therapy could be for a new service: ultrasounds. n In 1980, an 1,144-square-foot offered. n In 1990, the atrium, emerrenovation project was started to relieve crowded conditions in gency department, chapel and the lab and renal dialysis areas. cardiac rehab department were The hospital was also expanded built as part of a $7.57 million expansion project. east to provide more room for n In 1994, construction began administration, home health on a physician’s office building personnel and an education diacross the street to the north of rector. Three parking lots were GPRMC. added — two in front and one n In 1997, more space was behind the building. added for MRIs, a utility plant n In 1982, the hospital anand information services at a nounced plans to purchase an cost of $11 million. $800,000 scanner that would be n In 2002, the emergency housed in a $300,000 building

room, same day surgery department and Callahan Cancer Center were expanded, as were the chapel, catheterization lab and rehabilitation services area n In 2007, a $6 million imaging center was built n In 2011, a cath lab expansion carried a price tag of $5 million n In 2012, hospital officials announced a $100 million tower project. The goal is to construct a five-story, 217,000-square foot high rise that will house single patient rooms and state-of-theart technology. It will be located in what used to be the atrium. “The delivery system and healthcare needs continue to change,” Phares said. “GPRMC must be able to adapt. I hope we continue to deliver the services that people need in this area — I think there’s a commitment to doing that.” Connell agreed. “Our hospital has always stayed progressive with its recruitment and facilities,” Connell said. “They’ve done their best to keep a leading edge, and I don’t think anybody in the community has to be ashamed of the facility we have now.”

Harvest Christian Fellowship It may seem as though the Harvest Christian Fellowship Church is one of the newer to establish in North Platte but its beginnings actually day back to the mid1940s. “We are part of the larger Wesleyan

Church,” said senior pastor Ron Lauber, who began as a youth pastor here in 1982 and became senior pastor in 1989. Lauber said the church had been at the corner of G and Willow streets since the 1950s. “In 1989 when I became senior pastor, we had about 70 members,” Lauber said, “and we were running out of space, specifically parking.” When the old American Legion building became available at 1501 S. Dewey, just west of Walmart, Lauber said the congregation saw it as an opportunity and a challenge. “We had to do a total remodel of the inside,” he said. “Thankfully, much of the work was done by our members.” In 2000 when the church moved, Lauber said the membership was about 200. Now that number is pushing 700. “The new location has allowed us to grow,” Lauber said. “But even more, I see the reason we’re still growing is our mission of love and acceptance.” Two years ago, Harvest Christian Fellowship added a north campus at 2607 Rodeo Rd. With a gym and sanctuary, the facility offers the church space to have its youth activities as well as allowing for satellite services using today’s technology. Still, Lauber says the church needs more space. “Our first goal is to get out of debt,” he said. “Then we’ll look at a bigger sanctuary. We’re up against a tight space again but it’s a good problem to have.”

621 W. Francis, North Platte • 308-534-8800 www.npsurgerycenter.com E X P E R I E N C E T H E B E S T ANESTHESIOLOGY Pam McKeag, MD Michael Pochop, MD Forrest Ragland, MD Ryan Rathjen, MD

601 West Leota 621 West Francis 601 West Leota 601 West Leota

696-8470 534-8800 696-8470 696-8470

FAMILY MEDICINE Kent Allison, MD Jason Citta, MD Gary Connell, MD Shawn Murdock, MD Douglas States, MD

811 William Avenue 611 West Francis, Suite 100 611 West Francis, Suite 100 611 West Francis, Suite 100 209 McNeel Lane

696-2273 534-2532 534-2532 534-2532 534-8383

GENERAL SURGERY Brendon Curtis, MD Timothy O'Holleran, MD Chris Seip, MD Michael Simonson, MD

516 W. Leota 516 W. Leota 516 W. Leota 516 W. Leota

534-5370 534-5370 534-5370 534-5370

HAND SURGERY Scott Carol, DO

215 McNeel Lane

534-6655

INTERNAL MEDICINE Ronald Asher, MD Mark Nielsen, MD Susan Schuckert, MD Eric Schwartzkopf, MD

500 W. Leota, Suite 150 611 W. Francis, Suite 100 209 McNeel Lane 500 W. Leota, Suite 150

532-3022 534-2532 534-2532 532-3022

OBSTETRICS & GYNECOLOGY Michael Bianco, MD 1115 South Willow Chris Johng, MD 1115 South Willow

534-4804 534-4804

OPHTHALMOLOGY James Shreck, MD Jeffrey Tennant, MD

532-3937 532-5960

1307 South Willow 1214 West A

ORTHOPAEDIC SURGERY Ben Bissell, MD 215 McNeel Lane Jon D. Hannah, MD 215 McNeel Lane Mark McKenzie, MD 215 McNeel Lane

534-6655 534-6655 534-6655

OTOLARYNGOLOGY Elaine Fitzpatrick, MD Philip Fitzpatrick, MD

801 William Avenue 801 William Avenue

532-3330 532-3330

PAIN MEDICINE Burt McKeag, MD

611 West Francis, Suite 270

696-8230

PHYSICAL MEDICINE & REHABILITATION Caroline Sorenson, MD 601 S. Dewey, Suite 1

534-9100

PODIATRY Alicia Ericksen, DPM Richard Raska, DPM Justin Raatz, DPM Clinton Schafer, DPM

815 South Maple 815 South Maple 815 South Maple 815 South Maple

532-3600 532-3600 532-3600 532-3600

UROLOGY Michael Gallentine, MD

611 West Francis, Suite 230

696-8740


Our Town 2013 part 2