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Dan Selander, left, and Allen Egge from Double J Concrete & Masonry from New London place the new cornerstone at Meeker Memorial Hospital in Litchfield. The hospital has undergone a $26.5 million expansion project that in essence has created a new hospital. A time capsule from 1951 will be opened Friday.A new time capsule will be installed in December inside the 2009 cornerstone. Submitted photo courtesy of Meeker Memorial Hospital

'What's in it? Lord knows': Meeker Memorial Hospital will open 58-year-old time capsule

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Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

LITCHFIELD -- When Meeker County began building a new hospital in 1951 in Litchfield, organizers tucked away some of the community pride and excitement in a steel container that has been sealed up for 58 years.

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On Friday, the time capsule of the Meeker Memorial Hospital will be opened and its contents put on display. "What's in it? Lord knows," said Dave Gabrielson, chairman of the hospital board.

He's not exactly sure how the heavy steel container that was welded shut will be opened without harming the contents, but he's eager to see what's in it.

Lori Rice, coordinator of education and marketing, suspects there will be some photos and newspaper clippings documenting the construction.

"I've never had the experience of opening a time capsule," said Rice, adding that the items in the time capsule will be treated with "respect" and put on display in the hospital through November.

Seeing what's in the old time capsule will give the hospital board and staff ideas for what to put in a new time capsule.

In December, items to document construction of a major $26.5 million expansion project that in essence has created a new hospital will be put inside a new time capsule. The capsule will be set inside the 2009 cornerstone that was put in place on Monday by construction workers.

Rice said she's been collecting items that could potentially be put inside the new time capsule and other ideas will be gleaned from employees and board members.

Besides containing the history of the hospital, the memorabilia will contain photos and documents about the construction and the overwhelming "community support" for the project. Rice said the same kind of foresight people had in 1951 to build a new hospital was active when the community took on this new expansion project.

Construction of the expansion began in 2007 and includes 25 new patient rooms, emergency room, surgery area, rehab center, radiology area and birthing suites. Most of those areas have been in use for almost two months.

The existing hospital is being remodeled for different uses, including a chapel, and the remodeling will be completed in a couple of weeks.

"It is so nice and so beautiful compared to anything we've had before," said Gabrielson. "It's really first class."

Because time capsules preserve a moment in time in the present that will be seen as the distant past when they are opened in the future, there is an attraction and curiosity about them.

Gabrielson was born in the original hospital and his mother worked as a nurse when the 1951 hospital was built. Now, as chairman of the hospital board and a member of the Meeker County Board of Commissioners, Gabrielson has played a role in construction of the hospital's latest expansion. At 72, Gabrielson, and many of the others who made the new hospital a reality, likely won't be around when new community leaders open up the 2009 time capsule 50 or 100 years from now when another project is under way.

Knowing that will make a difference in the items they finally select to seal up in the new time capsule.

The opening of the 1951 time capsule is open to the public. It will take place at 2 p.m. Friday in the current medical records area.

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Carolyn Lange
A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers county government and regional news with the West Central Tribune.
(320) 894-9750
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