Thomas Memorial Hospital officially opened on Monday, December 9, 1946 after a shortage of hospital space in the area led to the need for a new facility. At opening, the facility was still short-staffed, especially in regards to nurses, preventing the initial opening of the 2nd Floor North Wing. D.B. Benedict was elected president of the Board of Trustees, and A.L. Bailey, administrator for the hospital. The chief of staff was Dr. J. Ross Hunter, and Mrs. Mary B. Whitten was named superintendent of nurses.
Thomas Memorial was named in honor of Herbert J. Thomas, Jr. Thomas was a Marine killed in action in the Pacific Theater. He was the first West Virginian to be named a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient (a title he received posthumously) for throwing himself atop a grenade in order to save his fellow soldiers. Thomas was a native of South Charleston, and is buried in nearby Sunset Memorial Park.
Today, Thomas Memorial has expanded exponentially from the original 35 beds made public in December 1946. It is a not-for-profit facility, which boasts many firsts, including the first hospital in WV to provide a nursery for premature babies, and the first in the state to allow fathers in the delivery room.
This family-friendly facility may also have a ghost. Nurses often report that the death of a patient is marked by a mysterious blue orb of light seen bouncing down the hall, and either into, or out of, the patient's room. And, as in many hospitals, there are also reports of call buttons being pressed in empty rooms, especially those where a patient has just died, and even the occasional report of an apparition of a recently deceased patient.
Are these the products of overworked, over-imaginative hospital staff...or the last goodbyes to them by the patients they so lovingly cared for in their final hours?