By Chris Valentine
(Originally Published in the Penrose Pulse in 2010)
For those of you who read this column each week, you know that I find a piece of artwork in the hospital and share a little bit of information about that piece, like who the artist is or an interesting fact. As I began to look at this week’s piece, a huge puzzle began to unfold. Being the inquisitive person that I am, I couldn’t let the mystery go untold so I took it upon myself to find out the truth.
To understand this story, you have to know a little bit of history. I went right to the source – the Penrose Hospital 100th Anniversary book. Below is an excerpt from that book that introduces you to Margery Reed.
(Glockner was the original name of Penrose Hospital until 1959.)
A dedication ceremony was held at Glockner in April of 1941 to mark the completion of the new $250,000 nurses’ home addition (the Margery Reed building).
The nurses’ home was a gift of Mrs. Verner Z. Reed as a memorial to her daughter, Margery, who had studied first aid training in the early years of Glockner, which was the first hospital in the west to offer such a course. Although too frail in health to take up nursing as a career, Margery Reed had taken intense interest in her first aid duties and everything about Glockner. She went on to other things – became an assistant English instructor at DenverUniversity, then a resident of Peru. But nursing made its mark, and what she saw and learned at Glockner Sanatorium and Hospital remained with her until her death in 1924.
Within the Margery Reed Nurses Home was placed some of her most cherished possessions. In the wood-paneled library is a large oil portrait of Margery and her entire library of 1,000 volumes.
In case you haven’t figured it out yet, the piece of artwork that started this is the large oil painting of Margery Reed located on the 1st floor of Penrose Hospital, just outside of Human Resources.
This led me to the other portrait of Margery, located on the third floor, just outside of the Penrose-St. Francis Foundation.
This is where the urban legend comes in. As I was asking around about the piece of artwork and who Margery was, an interesting story came up. I heard it from a number of people so I figured that it must be true. “These two portraits were lost for years and were just found a few years ago. They were rolled up and tucked in the rafters of the ceiling in the carpenter shop. I think Steve is the one who found them.”
A good reporter knows that you can’t rely on third party speculation so I tracked down Steve Erickson in Facilities to get his perspective on this amazing discovery.
“They were never lost,” said Steve. “When the library was torn down a few years ago, I took it upon myself to preserve these pieces of art. I took them over to Frame Works and had them professionally packaged. We did store them in the Carpenter Shop but they were never out of sight.”
I was already feeling better that we hadn’t lost these two priceless pieces of art. After the remodel of the building, they were re-hung for all to enjoy.
What about all of Margery’s books? I started my search in the most logical place, the Webb Memorial Library, located in the basement of the Margery Reed building. Librarian Casey Welch was more than happy to show me the shelf with all of Margery’s books that the library had saved when the old building was torn down. I issued another sigh of relief that these historic pieces of literature had been saved. Margery’s career as an English professor is evident as you browse the titles in the collection.
After all of this detective work, I was feeling pretty proud of myself. I felt good knowing that Margery Reed’s legacy was being preserved. As I was wrapping up a conversation with Steve, he said, “Her ashes were also in the old library, I think they are still here somewhere.” What? Her ashes? Could this be another urban legend? What started out as a simple question about an oil painting had turned into a search for the ashes of Margery Reed, which are reportedly somewhere in the building. Steve suggested that I might check with Spiritual Care.
As I made my way over to Spiritual Care, I was trying to figure out how to ask the question. “Hello, do you know where the ashes are?” or “Hi, I’m looking for an urn.”
I ended up just coming right out and asking if Leslie knew where Margery Reed’s ashes were. The instant smile and nod to “follow me” were all it took for me to know the end of my search was near. On a bookshelf in Larry Seidl’s office sit two urns that hold the remains of Margery Reed. Why two? No one knows. Why aren’t they buried? Again, no one knows. How did they end up on Larry’s shelf? We do know that.
When the old Margery Reed Library was torn down, the urns were given to former CEO Rick O’Connell for safe keeping. On one of his final days here at Penrose, Rick gave these two urns to Larry because he was afraid someone would throw them out, not realizing what they were. Finally, the mystery was solved.
Margery Reed, who died almost 90 years ago, remains a part of the Penrose-St. Francis history and her legacy continues. So, the next time you pass down the hall to Human Resources, or walk through the door to the Foundation, stop, admire the art and think how that wonderful lady’s life is still intertwined with who we are today.
A Happy Ending
Added in September 2013
As you can tell from the story above, Margery’s things were spread throughout Penrose Hospital and a mystery to most. I knew there was a better way to honor her legacy and her family’s contribution to Penrose Hospital in her honor.
The first piece of this puzzle that fell into place was when the Webb Library staff realized they needed more space for medical literature and needed to move the Margery Reed collection. We had the collection professionally appraised and sold the majority of the books at a recent book sale in the lobby. The books that were rare, collectible or connected to our faith were saved. Thanks to a generous donation through the Penrose-St. Francis Foundation, we were able to build a beautiful bookshelf in the lobby of Penrose Hospital.
Margery’s book collection, her ashes and a few pieces of her personal keepsakes are all displayed safely behind glass in the lobby for all to enjoy, admire and appreciate. After more than 60 years of being spread throughout the building, I know Margery would appreciate all of her things being together in one place.
If you haven’t done so already, I encourage you to stop by the lobby and browse through the book titles.