Bigfork Valley History
Bigfork Valley History        

Bigfork Valley History

Local hospital, world-class care

Bigfork Valley Hospital grew out of a vision: quality local health care supported by people of the area. The facilities changed, but the vision remains as firm as ever.

The Beginning

The cornerstone of Bigfork Valley Hospital was laid in 1938 for a building now known as Riverside Residence. Community members formed a charity called the Northern Itasca Hospital Association to raise funds, and the Women's Hospital Auxiliary started that same year to support the project. The Auxiliary continues to this day. Raising dollars was difficult during the Depression. The federal Works Progress Administration gave funds but required that the building and land be deeded to the Village of Bigfork. Community supporters volunteered thousands of hours, and an eight-bed hospital was opened in 1941. It held a surgery and delivery room, nursery, medical and dental clinic and X-ray. Four additional beds were added in 1953 and in 1960 the needs had grown so much that plans were drafted to build a new facility. Partners believed in the vision - federal, village and county governments gave almost $400,000. The Blandin Foundation contributed and the community raised an astounding $415,000. The new building opened in 1965 in its present location.

The Now

Health care needs grew, but so did Bigfork Valley. A medical and dental clinic opened in 1971 in the facility, and a 40-bed convalescent and nursing care unit was added a year later. A major upgrade was completed in 1985, and in 1992 Bigfork Valley Villa held a grand opening as Pine Tree Villa, a new residential apartment building for senior living, was opened and a helipad was laid. A new clinic building was built in 1994, and by 1996 the hospital facilities were remodeled and brought up to date. The Bigfork Valley Communities, the long term care nursing home, changed its approach to elder care in the late 1990s. It adopted an innovative care model following the philosophy of Eden Alternative that gives preference to elder's own choices. The change brought higher resident satisfaction and international recognition as a pioneer for a new model of care. Bigfork Valley grew again in 2006, when a two-story medical wing was built housing two surgical suites, procedure rooms, eleven acute care patient rooms, an emergency department, medical records and support areas. The original building was extensively remodeled and holds an expanded physical therapy department, fitness center, Diabetes Center, laboratory, imaging, retail pharmacy, specialty clinics and administration.

Hospital Administrator/CEO

  • Dorothy Girard, Superintendent Nurse 1941-1945
  • Ida C. Ryberg, RN Administrator 1945-1957
  • Laila Sveum, Administrator 1957-1958
  • Lillian M (Krueger) Carr, Administrator 1958-1995
  • Leone Riley, Administrator 1995-1997
  • Richard Ash, Administrator 1997-2002
  • Leone Riley, Interim Administrator 2002
  • H. Daniel Odegaard, CEO 2003 - present

The Future

We're proud of what our region has built. We served patients years ago by bobsled and boat. Today we serve patients in a world-class facility and continue to invest in our staff and equipment. As the needs of our region grow, Bigfork Valley looks forward to growing to meet those needs.


Hospital in 1941
The Hospital in 1941

Hospital in 1965
The Hospital in 1965

Senator Durenberger at the opening of the Villa
Sen. Durenberger at the grand opening of the Villa

Lillian Carr
Lillian Carr

Lillian Krueger Carr
Hospital Administrator 1958-1995

Visionary and advocate for rural health care, Lillian Krueger Carr directed the growth of Bigfork Valley from an 8-bed hospital to a new 20-bed facility and diversified health care campus.

In gratitude for her contribution to Bigfork Valley, the Board of Directors dedicated the new hospital wing and surgery center to her on February 18, 2006.

Important dates in the growth of the hospital during her tenure include:
- new hospital building completed in present location, 1964;
- addition of medical and dental clinic space, 1971;
- 40 bed Itasca County convalescent and nursing home constructed, 1972;
- hospital district formed through special legislation, 1975;
- transfer of nursing home ownership to hospital district, 1990;
- 30 unit senior apartment housing opened, 1992.

In 1995, Carr was awarded the Louis Gorin Award for Outstanding Achievement in Rural Health Care by the National Rural Health Association. This high honor recognizes creativity, unselfishness, compassion and cooperative attitude.





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