Part 1 of Series
By Al Spiers Syndicated Columnist Michigan City Post-Dispatch
One day a new salesman called at Warsaw's Murphy Medical Center-a modern, immaculate 70-bed hospital -and asked to see the president, H. J. Murphy.
Directed to the second floor, he found Murphy's small, plain office empty. Nearby an energetic, middle-aged woman was vigorously scrubbing walls.
"Excuse me, ma'm," said the salesman. "Is Mr. Murphy around-or did he leave?"
The plump motherly "cleaning" woman smiled faintly and a twinkle glowed in her expressive blue eyes.
"We have no Mister Murphy," she said gently. "Will I do? I'm H. J. Murphy!"
To the salesman, the spectacle of a hospital president scrubbing walls was slightly flabbergasting -but to townsfolk who know and love her, Hazel Jameson Murphy's incongruous toil was an old, old story - and the essence of what fulfilled an impossible dream in the face of incredible difficulties.
Behind Warsaw's fine hospital lurks a moving story-but one that couldn't be obtained from Mrs. Murphy, whose inspiring life wrote it. A friend summed her up like this:
"She's shy, reserved and genuinely modest. She'll duck the story.. or disclaim credit. Get the facts from her friends."
In and near Warsaw, Hazel Murphy's friends are legion so the facts weren't hard to assemble. Frustration and sorrow stalked Hazel's early life. Born in Warsaw. Near the century's turn, she grew up with a yearning to be a nurse--but lacked funds for training after high school.
Frustration and sorrow stalked Hazel's early life. Born in Warsaw and near the century- turn, she grew up with a yearning to be a nurse--but lacked funds for training after high school. Then an early marriage failed. Left with toddlers June and Joyce to raise, Hazel began working in the early '20's in Dr. Sam Murphy's small seven-bed hospital in a converted dwelling on Prospect Hill.
There, at last, Hazel found her niche. Dr. Sam, a dedicated perfectionist, was a crusty, demanding martinet. But he was also a fine physician, superb surgery and -- and great teacher. In time, Hazel became Dr. Murphy's surgical nurse, to Jill-of-all-trades and security right arm. She scrubbed, cleaned, kept books, hired and trained personnel, bought supplies and attended to the madrid of other details.
"They were a great team-welded by a common compassion for people and dedicated zeal to save lives and ease suffering," one friend said.
Inevitably, Hazel and Sam fell in love and were married--after the death of Dr. Murphy's mother, a stern, possessing woman who had been loathe to relinquish her son while alive. Inevitably, too, Hazel and Sam came to share an ambitious dream as growth bulged their tiny old hospital on Prospect Hill.
"Some day," said Dr. Sam, "we'll erect a superb, ultramodern medical center, equipped with the best of everything. We can build it in stages...."
The day for the first stage arrived in 1939. On a big site with ample room for expansion, a 25-bed hospital was started. Typically, Sam poured virtually all his resources into the structure-about $300,000.
The strain of building atop a staggering practice took its toll. In 1940, Dr. Murphy went to the famed Mayo Clinic, left most of an ulcerous stomach, and brought home an idea. "Surgery at Mayo's is terrific," said Dr. Sam. "We're going to change our plans and copy it exactly in our own hospital."
Which they did...
A year later the first stage of their dream was completed and Hazel and Sam toiled hard and happily in the sparkling new hospital ... unaware of dark days that lurked ahead. (To be continued)
Warsaw Times Union Monday June 22, 1959
In 1941 Warsaw's Dr. Sam Murphy and Hazel, his wife, No. 1 nurse, Jill-of-all trades and sturdy right arm, fulfilled the first part of an ambitious dream. They built, opened and operated a superbly equipped, ultra-modern 25-bed hospital.
War II's restrictions temporarily mothballed the rest of the dreambut didn't kill it. "Some day," Sam often told Hazel, "we'll have a complete medical center. As the need arises, we'll add an east wing, and a west wing. We'll do it ourselves-with no help or handout from anyone."
In relaxed spare moments, Sam and Hazel often talked, sketched ideas, mused and planned.
Unfortunately, spare moments were all too rare for both. Dr. Sam was that priceless rarity both a fine physician and superb surgeon. He was a wholly dedicated perfectionist with far too many patients.
Hazel, too, was devoted to her humanitarian work and virtually lived at the hospital. For her, no chore was too menial, no detail unimportant, no patient beneath her personal concern.
"Her work load was staggering," a friend recalled. "But each day she'd find time to visit every patient and ask, "How are you? Is everything all right?"
"Everyone knew her `How are you?' was no cliché. It came from her heart. And if even the slightest thing wasn't all right, Hazel corrected it in a hurry."
As World War moved toward bright victory, a dark cloud gathered over Dr. Murphy and Hazel.
Like many dedicated doctors, Sam cured the ills of others, but ignored his own. In 1940, Mayo surgeons had removed much of his ulcerous stomach and warned: "No malignancy yet! But take things easier. You're no horse!"
Sam ignored them. The sick needed him. If anything, he worked harder. His fatigue deepened and somber symptoms appeared. At war's end, he was still doing surgery but often on a stool because he couldn't stand very long.
By late '45, Dr. Sam knew the ugly truth. He had cancer! Cruel as it is, cancer has one virtue. It prompts most victims to settle their affairs in a wise, orderly manner.
Dr. Murphy did his best. He had a lawyer draw a new will that included a trust fund to provide nursing scholarships and several charitable bequests. All the rest went to Hazel, his wife and only close kin.
Even simple wills are often filled with legal mumbo-jumbo. Dr. Sam's was bulky, wordy and complex. He signed it with a vague, intuitive uneasiness that lingered. Shortly later he said to Hazel:
"Where there's a will, there's too often a lawsuit but I won't have the medical center involved! The hospital belongs to the community and you're the one person I know who'll perpetuate it in that spirit. I'm putting it in your name, immediately.
Which he did
In 1946, Dr. Murphy died. As he'd feared, his complex will touched off involved litigation that tangled and tied up his estate for 11 frustrating years.
At first, doubting her ability to operate the hospital without funds from the frozen estate, Hazel tried to fulfill Dr. Sam's wishes by offering it to the city or county.
When both refused, she carried on with the medical help of Dr. George Schlemmer, long Dr. Murphy's associate. Taunt, harassed, hand-to mouth months ensued. One legal action sought Dr. Murphy's accounts receivable.
"Never!" vowed Hazel. "His account cards also contain the patients' medical histories" The AMA backed her. She won and later wrote off many of the old debts. Another action tied up hospital cash. Hazel got quick help from many merchant friends.
"Pay your help," they said, "We'll cash their checks and hold 'em until things are settled." With such help, hard work and boundless faith, Hazel gradually got the hospital onto firm financial feet.
"I'll swear she did it by holding off lawyers with one hand and doing six jobs herself to save money," said one friend. That settled, Mrs. Murphy in 1948 calmly decided it was time to fulfill another part of Dr. Sam's dream.
"We'll borrow $200,000, build the west wing and double the hospital's bed capacity," she declared.
Even her closest friends were skeptical. The estate was still hopelessly snarled. Hazel had no money of her own and knew no well-heeled benefactors. But to all who counseled caution, Mrs. Murphy gave this simple reply:
"The community needs more hospital beds. We must provide them. It's what Dr. Sam would have done."
(To be continued)
Warsaw Times Union Tuesday June 23, 1959
Early last year directors of Warsaw's Murphy Medical Center made a surprising discovery. Their owner-president, Mrs. Hazel J. Murphy was drawing no salary. Hazel, widow of Dr. Sam Murphy who launched the center in 1940, was certainly no nominal, part time president. Far from it! She was the modern, 70-bed hospital heart and soul and it was her whole life.
From the early `20s, Hazel and Dr. Sam had been a great team. She'd shared his dream of a fine new medical center and helped build the 25-bed core in 1940.
After Dr. Sam's death in 1946, Hazel, carrying on alone, had surmounted great obstacles to achieve their dream. With her own funds frozen by estate litigation, she'd borrowed to build a $200,000 west wing in 1948 and a $150,000 east wing in 1951.
Faith, frugality and prodigious work retired much of the center's debts. After the estate was finally settled in 1957, Hazel incorporated the center to perpetuate it, in trust, for the community's sake.
Mrs. Murphy could have relaxed then but didn't. Saving lives, easing suffering and comforting the sick was her whole life. She went right on working 10 to 16 hours a day seven days a week.
Thus, when directors discovered her no-pay status they were surprised. Also firm!
"You," the board ordered, "are going on salary forthwith!" Hazel demurred. Other income covered her modest needs. She neither needed nor wanted pay. The board stayed firm and that was that! Ah, but not quite! Six months later the center's accountant corralled Director Bill Mollenhour, veteran Warsaw newspaperman and Hazel's long time friend and financial adviser.
The accountant had a problem which sent Bill to Hazel. Gently prodded, she confessed and produced six monthly salary checks, all uncashed. Her excuse: The hospital might need something the checks could buy without waiting on board approval. Bill was firm and Hazel promised to cash her paychecks for the accountant's sake. Shortly later Mollenhour found Mrs. Murphy bemoaning the loss of a $60 stethoscope absently (and innocently) carried away by some doctor.
Hazel's frugal side was showing. Her other side appeared quickly. "Come to the nursery and see our new infant resuscitator," she urged Bill eagerly. Bill went, scrutinized a tiny, $1,200 device like an iron lung, smiled wryly and said, "I don't recall the board approving this." Unabashed, Hazel side-stepped nimbly. It was suggested by one of the new doctors," she said. "And it may save a baby's life"
Since then, the device has done just that and so have the Isolettes two, not one! ..which Hazel bought in the early `50s to save premature babies. "She's both the delight and despair of our doctors," Mollenhour chuckled. "She'll frugally resist buying a $10 convenience item then promptly spend $1,000 for something that may save a life or lessen pain."
Thanks largely to Hazel Murphy's dedicated work, frugality, generosity and faith, Warsaw today has a superbly equipped hospital with ample beds, 31 staff doctors, licensed technicians, 24-hour emergency service, extremely low infant mortality and a death rate less than half the national average.
For all this, patients pay less than average rates and the center's annual charity work runs to five figures.
Along the arduous way, Mrs. Murphy also found time to mother, raise and educate two fine daughters. Her Joyce married and settled near Bourbon after a year at college. June got a degree at IU, married Ray Schick, a Warsaw industrial executive and then became Mother's right arm at the hospital.
Mrs. Schick subsequently became one of 20 small hospital administrators selected by Columbia University for a continuing workshop course that combines theory and on-the-job practice.
June's help gave Hazel more spare time--which she promptly invested in new educational courses at Purdue and IU extension centers in Fort Wayne. "No one is too old to stop learning.," she says.
She could have added "or to stop working!" Close friends often urge Mrs. Murphy to take things easier and to leave menial chores to the hospital's housekeeping staff. It's wasted breath. When she sees a job that needs doing she does it.
"In May, the night before our Hospital Week open house, she waxed floors until 2 a.m.," Mollenour reported. "And she still takes only one vacation a year. Each Yule season Hazel and her sprightly octogenarian mother, Minnie, hop in a car and drive to New York to see the fabulous window displays, take in a few plays and shop.
"Typically, Hazel comes home laden with gifts for everyone but herself. That's just about the story of her inspiring life--gifts for everyone but herself! No wonder so many of us love her
Warsaw Times Union Wed. June 24, 1959
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