Grimes spearheading fundraiser

BY LIZ SHAW FOR THE ENTERPRISE The day physicians and staff move into the new Dakota Clinic under a shared roof with St. Joseph's Area Health Services will be a nostalgic one for Dr. Paul T. Grimes, but he's okay with it. "It's time for change, t...



The day physicians and staff move into the new Dakota Clinic under a shared roof with St. Joseph's Area Health Services will be a nostalgic one for Dr. Paul T. Grimes, but he's okay with it.

"It's time for change, time to expand, time to move on," he says. "This project is a long time in coming."

Dr. Grimes and his wife, Jean, share the role as honorary chairpersons of the campaign to raise more than $2.5 million locally on behalf of the $26 million building and renovation project currently underway at St. Joseph's Area Health Services.


The campaign swings into high gear this month as the public is invited to pledge their support for healthcare in the area.

Who better to lead the charge than the man who was among those instrumental in providing care and devoting his life to meeting family healthcare demands in Park Rapids at a time when rural physicians were a rare breed?

Dr. Norm Haugen invited Dr. Grimes to start up practice July 15, 1955 in the former "Johnson building." (There were three other physicians in the area at the time.)

"We came to Park Rapids to visit, and we stayed," Jean says.

There are no words to adequately describe busy for a family physician in those days. Recruitment of doctors was tough. Hubbard County ranked among the poorest in the state and signing on meant guaranteed long work hours.

In 1959, Dr. Ed Gamm joined the team, and they built a clinic on north Main shortly thereafter. With the addition of Dr. Jane Churchill, Dr. Maurice Spangler and Dr. Bob Rose, the tide had turned. Additionally, Dr. Chuck Benjamin, a surgeon, arrived in 1975.

"When there were five of us for sure, it was just like poker," Dr. Grimes explains. "It's easier to draw to strength than draw to weakness."

With the arrival of Dr. Benjamin, the area's first specialist, "that really helped the clinic and hospital grow." Dr. Grimes views these moments as watershed events that helped to secure a vital role of healthcare for this region.


He considers the current building project to be another of those watershed events as well.

With the arrival of new physicians, they built the clinic on Pleasant Avenue which began its affiliation with Dakota Clinic in 1985. At the time of construction, medical leaders had attempted to join with the hospital structure and discussed using common facilities, but there were "unfortunate philosophical differences at that time" which couldn't be worked through.

"It's very good that we're growing, getting bigger and have more doctors," Dr. Grimes says. "It good to see that this building project is finally happening and the arrangement of the two entities being in proximity of one another is very good. It will be much more efficient."

Another plus for healthcare here is the fact that St. Joseph's has been so good about adding new technologies to its range of services, Dr. Grimes adds. "Because of that, it's been easier to recruit new physicians."

He says new doctors want to come to an area where they have equipment with which they are familiar. Not having that technology has been the demise of many smaller hospitals, he says.

"A tremendous number of conditions can be treated here," he continues. "And our doctors are also very good."

One way they both know for sure is because, as residents, Dr. Grimes and Jean use the facilities and services available as patients.

"Dr. Sperle is my doctor, and I do whatever he tells me to do." Dr. Grimes' sense of humor always has a way of creeping into a conversation.


"We have been in the hospital a number of times for a number of things and we have been treated extremely well," he says.

The care has been a two-way street. Just ask the more than 2,000 babies he helped to deliver. And the Grimes' personal memories of the hospital go way back. For example, their son, Joe, as a 5-year-old proposed to Sr. Marie Antoinette (Sr. Charles at the time).

Now retired, the Grimes are busier than ever. You can find them volunteering throughout the community and school, adoring any of their 13 grandchildren or visiting their children in Hawaii, the Twin Cities or North Shore.

The building project is a cause dear to their hearts. They would like to see the drive to keep up with healthcare demands maintained, now and into the future.

Pledge cards are being mailed to residents in St. Joseph's service region. To learn more or to make a pledge, please call Cynthia Rooney, St. Joseph's communication/development manager at 237-5711.

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