After a long struggle with finances, Physicians Regional Medical Center (née St. Mary's Hospital) closed its doors Friday night at the age of 88.
According to its surviving clinic, St. Mary's was born April 22, 1930 as a service of the Sisters of Mary and the Catholic Diocese of Nashville. It closes as part of the Tennova healthcare system, which will also close a hospital in Morristown.
Longtime neighbor Norma Kelley remembered the hospital as a community institution always nearby in case it was needed.
"It was the neighborhood hospital," she said. "It was close. If your kids fell out of a tree, you just went there."
She remembered the service of the sisters who worked there. "When my mother was ill, Sister Martha would come and bring mother groceries as part of their outreach," she said.
For State Senator Richard Briggs, the hospital was a community. He practiced there for 16 years.
"There’s no question that it was absolutely a special place and I may go even as far to say because the sisters were there, it was a holy place," he said.
In addition to medical care, St. Mary's made its mark in the memory of East Tennesseans in other ways as well: an ad campaign staring Peyton Manning and Sister Maris Stella featured the diminutive nun running routes to catch a football from the former UT quarterback.
When the hospital closed on Friday, it left behind a legacy of care in East Tennessee. It is survived by Tennova Turkey Creek Medical Center and North Knoxville Medical Center as well as rumors the city will purchase the site for a new public safety complex.