BY DYKE HENDRICKSON
---- — NEWBURYPORT — Anna Jaques Hospital officials are organizing what they hope turns out to be the “largest reunion east of the Mississippi of people born at the same hospital.”
Organizers at Anna Jaques Hospital are inviting “alums” to festivities on Monday, July 29, from 5:30 to 7 p.m.
It will take place on the front lawn of the hospital, and birthday cake will be served. Pizza and beverages will be available.
Officials are hoping to beat the current Guinness World Record of 958 attendees appearing at the medical center of their birth.
“Last year’s (first) reunion garnered more than 100 attendees and positive feedback,” said Sarah Gnerre, executive director, Anna Jaques Community Health Foundation. “We’re eager to continue to grow our celebration of people born at Anna Jaques.”
Registration is encouraged, and early registrants will be entered in a drawing for a $500 engraved Anna Jaques Hospital brick to be placed at the hospital. The winner must be present.
During the reunion, the hospital will hold several fundraisers, including selling T-shirts and related memorabilia.
Such an effort to generate essential funds would be in keeping with the spirit of the founding of the institution, for the roots of the medical center tie directly to the generosity of its namesake.
Anna Jaques was a lifelong resident here who lived from 1800 to 1885. The story goes that in about 1882, “Miss Jaques was worrying over the disposal of part of her property, inherited from two brothers and a sister.”
Dr. Francis Howe, a local physician, heard of her concern and went to her residence. He evidently suggested that giving the money to develop a medical complex would be a sound idea.
News reports from that day reported, “A week later, Miss Jaques gave Dr. Howe a package of 22 $1,000 City of Boston bonds to establish the Jaques Hospital for the benefit of Newburyport, West Newbury, Newbury, Amesbury and Salisbury.” The total amount grew to $25,000, and a hospital was born.
The original complex was on the corner of Broad and Monroe streets and held 13 beds. It admitted its first patient in 1884.
The need for medical services was recognized, and toward the end of the century, municipal leaders began planning a larger facility. The current center on Highland Avenue opened in 1904 and today has 123 beds.
Anna Jaques was the last surviving member of her family. Her siblings, like herself, had no children.
But that historical detail is not stopping hospital administrators from promoting the Birth Center and bringing back as many former bouncing babies as possible.
A onetime baby who plans to attend is Barbara Gove of West Newbury, who was born there in 1918.
“I was born here and grew up locally, and I was the first medical technologist the hospital hired,” said Gove. “After I went to the University of Massachusetts, I worked at the hospital in Northhampton, but doctors in Newburyport (in about 1942) wanted me to work here, so I came home and I started. I worked at the Anna Jaques for so many years. It is part of me, and I am part of it. If they are having an event, I am certainly going to be there.”
The event is sponsored by Corporate Benefits Group, LLC of Danvers, Kelly’s Taylor Rental of Newburyport, Country Center for Health & Rehabilitation, Institution for Savings, Newburyport, Five Cents Savings Bank and The Provident Bank.