The old Parkland Memorial Hospital, which opened Sept. 25, 1954, closed its doors this week for good. Though, it’s been years since medical staff and patients filled the buildings.
“I’m actually looking very much forward to what comes next on this site,” said John Raish, senior vice president of support services at Parkland. “There have obviously been a lot of watershed events, and specifically, perhaps unfortunately, people associate John F. Kennedy’s passing with Parkland Hospital.”
President Kennedy was pronounced dead at Parkland Hospital on Nov. 22, 1963.
“That’s where John F. Kennedy was declared dead,” Capt. Kristi Tillery with Dallas County Hospital District Police said as she walked into the former site of Trauma Room 1. “Right there.”
Since renovated, the original Trauma Room 1 is now a hallway. The medical equipment from JFK’s room was bought by the government and buried in a former limestone quarry in Kansas.
Tillery marked the geolocation of Trauma Room 1 on her phone, so she’ll know where it was after the building is gone. She’s the unofficial historian at Parkland having worked there since 1991.
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“When I walked through these doors at Parkland, I knew I had found my home,” Tillery said. “I can recall being here, and all the activity going on. So many lives saved.”
Tillery scrolled through the photos on her phone. Many of them are from Parkland.
“I collect Parkland memorabilia,” Tillery said. “This building means so much to so many because we did so much with so little.”
“Third floor Labor and Delivery. Babies,” Grady Portis said with a smile as he got off the elevator. “Around my birthday, March 12th, I always come up here and walk through, imagine what my mom went through when she was 20, her second child.”
Portis and his two sons were all born at Parkland. He first started working at the hospital right out of high school. As an employee in the Engineering and Maintenance Department, he’s the last employee working in the old Parkland buildings.
“I don’t call it work,” Portis said. “I love it here, and I come in here in the morning smiling!”
“If you look at the incredible amount of babies born, and just huge amount of lives that were saved and changed here, and the number of staff that developed their chops here. I think those are the things we really want to be remembered for,” Raish said.
Demolition is set to begin in October and is expected to take two years.
“A lot of memories for me,” Tillery said. “Good memories.”