Bear River Valley Hospital was a community effort long before it was built.

Harry Gephart remembers going door to door in the years before the hospital opened its doors in early 2009, asking residents and businesses alike for donations that would help build a facility that could handle the needs of a growing population in Tremonton and surrounding communities.

“We were going through a rough time in ’07 and ’08 with kind of a little depression, but people were really good,” said Gephart, a longtime local businessman and one of the leaders of the effort to get the hospital built. “Everybody was just good to help, and we raised a million dollars.”

A groundbreaking ceremony for the state-of-the-art, $25 million Intermountain Healthcare facility was held on Aug. 7, 2007, and two weeks ago, hundreds of local residents gathered at Bear River Valley Hospital to eat, play games, socialize, and celebrate the building’s 10th anniversary.

Brandon Vonk, who took over as chief executive of the hospital in November 2018, said he was touched by the size of the turnout at the anniversary event held on Aug. 19.

“We were expecting around 200 people to show up, and we got about 550,” Vonk said. “It shows what a big part of the community it has become.”

Vonk’s words echoed the community-wide effort that made the project happen in the first place.

In 2005, a feasibility study of the existing hospital on 600 North (a building that now houses a satellite campus for Utah State University) revealed that building an entirely new hospital was more cost effective than updating the hospital’s heating and plumbing systems.

After 32 years in operation, it was time for something bigger and better as the population of northern Box Elder County continued to grow. Intermountain pledged to put up most of the cash to build a new $25 million hospital, with the condition that the local community come up with a $1 million match.

That’s when foundation members got to work, led by four local business leaders: Ward Taylor, Deloris Stokes, Jerry Fronk, and Gephart. The four men enlisted others to help and got to work literally with boots on the ground, going door to door explaining the need for the new facility and asking for donations.

“The reason that IHC wanted us to come up with the million was to show that the community would be involved with it, and it wouldn’t just lie there as a nice showpiece — that people would buy into it and be able to support it,” Gephart said.

Gephart remembers being paired with Stokes in the fundraising effort.

“We went into one farmer’s home and he (Stokes) said ‘I know you had a really good crop this year.’ The farmer said ‘Yeah, I’ve had a good year,’ and he wrote out a check for $25,000.”

However, Gephart said, Stokes wasn’t done.

“Deloris said ‘I know you’ve had a really good year, and I was thinking more in the $50,000 range.’”

They walked out the door, $50,000 check in hand.

“Nobody else could have done this,” Gephart said of his friend Stokes, who passed away in January 2016 at the age of 96. “He had a good way with people.”

Over the last century, there have been six different hospitals in Tremonton, beginning at a two-story home in Garland in 1923. The first building dedicated specifically as a hospital opened in 1928 in the historic building on Tremonton’s Main Street now known as Legacy Square.

After 40 years of operation, the Utah State Health Department closed the hospital due to increased state code requirements. A handful community leaders, including local physicians, contributed more than $37,000 to reopen The Valley Hospital under the management of Health Services Corporation, a subsidiary of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, with a stipulation that a new hospital would be built. The Valley Hospital was reopened in April 1973 and operated until 1976.

Around that time, the LDS Church divested the hospital system, giving its medical facilities to the nonprofit Intermountain Health Corporation, which operates today as Intermountain Healthcare.

The construction of Bear River Valley Hospital on 600 North became a reality in October 1976; the $1.5 million facility served the valley residents for 32 years until the new facility opened at its present location.

The new hospital opened as a 16-bed, 44,000-square foot facility and 20,000-square-foot adjoining physician clinic, Bear River Clinic, at 905 N. 1000 West. It was designed to meet the needs of the community for the next 50 years.

Stokes said being involved in getting the hospital built was one of his most rewarding experiences, and watching it prosper has validated the hard work of the many who made it happen.

“Not that you want people to get hurt, but when they do, you’ve got a great resource there,” he said. “And the cafeteria’s probably the best place in town to eat.”