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Through Irish Eyes: Re-connecting with familiar name, old memories

By: Helen Bale
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Ah, the Internet! Sometimes it's frustrating, sometimes scary ” and other times, it's amazing. That's the current situation as I ponder the latest wonder it's produced for me. Early last month I had written about my experiences in the health care field, including a visit to the emergency room at Sutter Auburn Faith Hospital for some tests. In the process I had casually mentioned some of the names involved in the early development of the hospital ” Joe Chevreaux, Chester Gibbs, Frankie Kee, etc. ” and then forgot about it and moved on to other things. A few days later I was intrigued to find an e-mail from Joe Chevreaux in my daily accumulation, especially since my long-time friend had died some years earlier. This, I quickly realized, was from his older son, now a prospering businessman in Michigan. We'd been in and out of communication since he left Auburn, but it had been several years since I'd heard from him. Now, with delight, I read the latest: how an employee had gone online searching for Irish names, and somehow had come up with my article. Since Chevreaux is not a common name, he immediately went to his boss, asking if he knew the names Bale and Gibbs and Kee. And Joe did, indeed. He now runs an operation in Northern Michigan, about 100 miles from the Canadian border. With 150 employees, it's the largest limestone operation in the United States, doing more tonnage in a few days than they did in a year at the Meadow Vista plant here. No trucks to load ” everything goes out on 60,000-ton ships across the Great Lakes. Joe Sr., would be proud, I know. It made me think again about those long-ago days when Auburn Faith came into being. I was doing a television show in Sacramento when a group from Auburn came in, asking for help in trying to get a hospital built here. They had only the old Highland Hospital, with severe limitations. Surgery was performed in one building and patients moved to another to recuperate. When it rained, it meant holding umbrellas over the gurneys to get them inside and under cover. We really need a new hospital, they told me. Unfortunately, the voting public did not agree, so some of the doctors got together and financed it privately, a proprietary hospital built on faith. The new facility was small and pretty simple, but a tremendous improvement over Highland. As the community grew, so did the demand for services and before long, it was time to think about expanding. Local businessmen took the lead and a grand new two-story addition came into being. My husband and I had moved to Newcastle by then, and I was drafted to do the PR for the project. Clambering up the girders to take pictures for a dog and pony show called for some fancy footwork and a hefty bit of prayer, but we got it done. Later, with financial headaches, there was a move to become part of Sutter Health. It was not an easy decision. I recall the evening in 1989 when the vote went down. My husband was a patient there then, and I checked in at the meeting first, and then went to stay with him until paged to come back for the balloting. Now the hospital is many times the size of the original Auburn Faith, and offers pretty sophisticated care. There are many memories to cherish. I'm glad I was part of it. Helen Bale's column appears every other Sunday in the Journal.