St. Elizabeth Hospital lives on in new book

DANVILLE – Phyllis Snider enjoys doing research, and she loved her nursing career at St. Elizabeth Hospital.

As each of the various sections of the hospital was torn down until nothing remained but a grassy space a block long and about a block and a half wide on Danville's southeast side, Snider, 70, took its destruction as a personal loss.

"Because I was grieving, I decided I would try to write as much as I could about the history and the people that worked, went to school and received care at St. E," Snider said. "It was where I was born, went to nursing school, where my children were born and where I worked."

Snider has combined her hobbies and a passion for the old hospital to write "More Than a Building." She will hold a book signing from 3 to 5 p.m. July 9 at the gift shop off the lobby of Provena United Samaritans Medical Center. The book will be available for sale in the shop at $35.

Snider used souvenir booklets, cornerstone contents, newspaper articles, Vermilion County Museum materials and pretty much anything else she could put her hands on to compile the book. It features some history, lots of photographs and lists of chaplains, doctors, Franciscan Sisters of the Sacred Heart and other staff from the hospital and graduates from the St. Elizabeth School of Nursing.

Also located near the original hospital was a home for indigents and orphans, and a place for the contagious and aged, until around 1910.

The original hospital on Green Street, later Sager Avenue, had two additions. Then the older sections were torn down, before the final section came down in 2005. St. Elizabeth merged with Lakeview Medical Center in 1988 and the two campuses became United Samaritans Medical Center. In 1997, the Danville medical center became part of the Provena Health Care System and was renamed Provena United Samaritans Medical Center.

"I worked through the merger of the two local hospitals," Snider said. "I didn't want to work through another one. With mergers, there's always the fear of losing your pension and benefits. I had planned for an early retirement, so I went ahead and did it."

Snider had already tackled a book on Vermilion County coal miners, so once the idea of doing a book on St. Elizabeth was fixed, she was off and running. "I decided after a July 2006 St. Elizabeth School of Nursing reunion that I was going to do this project and got started in January of 2007. By the time the next reunion rolled around, I told the other alumni I was working on it and would like to contact as many people as I could for their stories," Snider said.

She hit a few roadblocks, like finding out the Franciscan mother house had disposed of a lot of records "because they just didn't have room. I don't understand that. People with a sense of history keep stuff from the past," she said.

"When I got started, it was just go, go, go!" she said, punctuating her statement with a fist. "I hope anyone who ever worked at St. E or received care there will really enjoy this compilation.

Call Snider at 443-6793 or e-mail granny1732@aol.com for more information about the book.

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