CROSSNORE — It was the end of an era.
These words have been spoken countless times in the past 19 years when looking back at the closing of Sloop Memorial Hospital in Crossnore. For those who worked inside the halls of the former Garrett Memorial, then renamed Sloop Memorial Hospital, the facility was more than brick and mortar, but rather was 70 years worth of rich mountain tradition where caring come first.
Many of the former employees of Sloop Hospital gathered together down at the Vance Meeting House in Crossnore on Saturday, Sept. 29, for a time of reminiscing and swapping stories of life and times in the old medical facility, looking back on the old building and talking about times of yesteryear.
The story begins in 1909 when the Drs. Eustace and Mary Martin Sloop came into the mountains on horseback to give a lifelong mission to the mountain people. Later on, the hospital, which was eventually named for Dr. Sloop, evolved into a 38-bed facility, adding features that included a surgical wing, intensive care unit, doctor’s offices, laboratories, physical therapy services, respiratory therapy servies, an education facility and a dietary department. Each of these departments treated one another as family.
A monument, placed at the location near the former entrance to the hospital, sums up the sentiment of those who often spent many hours caring for the citizens of Avery County and beyond: “Garrett Memorial Hospital 1928-1983, Sloop Memorial 1983-1999, In the memory and honor of those who were born here, those who died here, those who were healed here, and those who served here.”
The most recent gathering marked the fourth-consecutive reunion gathering of former hospital personnel, and the second straight year that the meeting originated in Crossnore. Former employees talked of patients that they took care of in a different era of health care. Scrapbooks were shared, hearkening back memories which flooded back as if it was yesterday. Stories were told and laughter and tears were shed. Many stories were offered of employees who are no longer living, tales of kindness, of compassion, and love for humanity.
Brenda Hodges, event organizer, expressed her hopes that additional former members would take advantage of the opportunity to revisit with former co-workers.
“We want to see more of the Sloop family come to the reunion,” Hodges said. “We were a family then, and we are a family now. Time doesn’t change that.”