FARGO — It won't be long before bricks and mortar start coming down on the Prairie St. John's campus near the Red River in downtown Fargo, as old buildings are demolished to make room for a new hospital.
The new psychiatric hospital will be just east of the existing one and once the new building is complete, the old hospital will be demolished.
Now 91, Dorothy Schaffer of Lake Park, Minn., a retired operating room nurse from St. John's past, made one last visit on Thursday, Sept. 19.
Schaffer's story with the hospital begins after graduating from high school in 1946 when she started to look for work.
"(There were) only three jobs available: teaching, nursing and secretary work. That was it," Schaffer recalled.
Schaffer started nursing school in Fargo with the Sisters of St. Joseph at St. John's Hospital. The three years of higher learning — including room and board — only cost her $492. After completing her education, she became a nurse whose career would span 40 years.
St. John's had its own remarkable history. It kept running with patients during historic floods, which Schaffer was there for in 1947. In the big 1957 Fargo tornado, it was St. John's where the Munson family grieved the loss of six children.
On Sept. 19, Prairie St. John's staff members gave Schaffer and her daughter one last tour of her old hospital. Schaffer had a memorable time at St. John's and said she particularly enjoyed caring for polio patients.
Schaffer likely has outlived her nursing schoolmates and a lot of her patients, but a final trip down memory lane made for a perfect day for the dedicated nurse who worked nights and weekends caring for so many people.