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Since You Asked: So help us God, nuns ran Medford hospital

While talking to a friend, I mentioned that Providence Hospital was a Catholic hospital years ago. I was in awe of the nurses who were nuns and wore the long, black traditional "habits."

My friend insists that it has always been Providence and that I am having a pipe dream. A free dinner and movie rests on the answer.

— Lila O., Trail

If we were you, Lila, we would go for the prime rib dinner, although some fresh Oregon salmon also sounds tasty. For entertainment choices, we've heard good things about the movie, "The Invention of Lying." In other words, you've won your bet.

The Sisters of Providence arrived in the Rogue Valley in 1911 and at the request of a group of local physicians, established Sacred Heart Hospital off East Main Street in Medford. The cost was a whopping $150,000, with the city donating the land and $10,000 toward the project.

Sacred Heart was Medford's hospital for nearly a half-century. But construction of Rogue Valley Memorial Hospital (now Rogue Valley Medical Center) sent the sisters' operation into a financial tailspin. The sisters were prepared to leave the valley, but a community fundraising effort instead allowed them to replace the old hospital in 1966 with the new Providence Hospital (now Providence Medford Medical Center) on the corner of McAndrews Road and Crater Lake Avenue.

For many years after construction of the new hospital, the sisters lived on the third floor of the hospital, ministering and caring for patients. And, yes, their attire as nurse-nuns was the traditional black habits.

Among the last of the sisters of that era was Evelyn Bergamini, who retired as hospital administrator but continued her work at the hospital, folding sheets in the laundry and making rounds until 1992.

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by e-mail to youasked@mailtribune.com. We're sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.

Since You Asked: So help us God, nuns ran Medford hospital