DeKalb General Hospital, now DeKalb Medical, opened its doors at 9 a.m. on May 1, 1961. That afternoon hospital staff delivered the hospital’s first baby, the daughter of a Chamblee High School coach.
Fifty years and a day later, a group of employees, former employees and well wishers gathered in the hospital’s theater to celebrate its landmark anniversary. “The exact anniversary was May 1, but that was a Sunday this year and we didn’t want to make all of you come out on a Sunday,” explained Dee Keeton, director of patient relations, who was on hand to open a time capsule.
The small capsule, which Keeton joked might not have been opened on schedule after all, contained publications, papers and a few small instruments. “We thought it was right under the plaque, but it turned out not to be there—but we found it,” she said.
No one related to the baby born on opening day came forward, but Carl Strass, the father of the first boy-girl twins born at the hospital was present to relate his story. He reported that the family had moved to Texas, where the twins are pursuing professional careers. As a widower, Strass returned to Georgia for a Decatur High School reunion and reconnected with a friend from school. She is now his wife.
Another special guest was Louise Hinesley, DeKalb Medical’s longest active employee. She has been with the hospital since Aug. 17, 1963. Hinesley led a long parade of employees and retirees who have worked at least 15 years with the hospital as they stepped one at a time on the stage to have a photo taken with DeKalb Medical President and CEO Eric Norwood and to receive a special gift—a copy of the book The DeKalb Medical Story From Berry Patch to Healthcare System by Wytch Stubbs, M.D., and Susan Parry, R.N.
The hospital opened in 1961 on the current site, formerly a berry patch. The newly created hospital authority decided that it should purchase the entire 40 acres—at $4,000 an acre—because “we realize that it will not be needed immediately for the hospital contemplated, but we are confident that DeKalb’s growth will make additions to the hospital necessary within the next few years,” Julius McCurdy, the authority’s secretary-treasurer wrote in a letter to Milton C. Scott, who represented the Scott estate, owners of property.
The prediction proved accurate. The next few decades turned out to be characterized by growth and expansion for the hospital. Among the facilities later opened at the North Decatur Road campus is the Women’s Wellness Center, the first facility of its kind in the southeastern United States. It opened in 1985. A maternity surgery pavilion was completed in 1993.
In the preface to The DeKalb Medical Story, Norwood noted that the hospital was built on a berry patch where people in the community were allowed “to help themselves to the delicious fruit free of charge.”
“What a word picture of what DeKalb Medical has become over the last 50 years,” he wrote. “It is a place where the community can still help itself to produce good fruit through the faithful investment of time, talents and treasure for the common good.”