NASELLE — For the last 40 years, the residents of Naselle and surrounding communities have had access to a local medical clinic, thanks to the efforts and generosity of a community-minded couple, Ted and Sally Swanson.
“Before 1979, area residents had to travel to Astoria or Ilwaco if they needed to seek medical treatment,” said Ted Swanson. “Although for some years before that, Dr. Fritz travelled periodically from Cathlamet to a small building across the road from the Appelo store in Deep River where people could come for exams and treatment. Somebody also ran an ambulance service out of there as I recall.”
In talking with Swanson, one thing becomes clear. This is not someone with an inflated self-image expecting accolades and adoration for his every effort. In their unassuming way, he and Sally simply saw a community need and felt it was their duty to do their best to resolve that need.
“Sally was working at the school down in Ilwaco for the Grays Harbor College community education program. While she was down there, Kathy Quinn, the health coordinator for the county, was talking about getting a clinic out here in Naselle. When Sally told me about the conversation, I thought well, we’ve got the property here and we could figure out someplace to put a building. This was back in probably 1978 or 1979. We talked it over with Dr. Neese who was in charge at the time and decided what they would like to have as a building. I wish now that I would have gone with a stick-built building but, it was kind of a hurry-up job and this manufactured home seemed to fit the plan alright so, we ordered it.”
The Swansons purchased the manufactured home which was delivered and set up on the Swansons’ property along the North Valley Road. Based on what the hospital wanted to have, Swanson reconfigured some of the interior walls. The clinic then started seeing patients in late 1979 or early 1980. Swanson later added on both front and rear porches.
“Peter Stoval was the first practitioner,” recalled Swanson. “It started out pretty good. People were happy to be able to go there. Over the 40 years or so that it has operated, I think Gwen has been here the longest. David Oliver was here for quite a few years as well. They have all been nurse practitioners. We started out renting it to the hospital for $300 a month. Some years ago, we upped it to $500 and I told the kids we want to keep it at that. We don’t want to charge them out of the area. And so, it’s been working fine. They take good care of it and do most of the maintenance on it. I fixed it up the way they wanted it and once in a while we have to do something such as get the septic system pumped out. It’s been nice for the community.”
With a laugh, he adds, “It’s been nice for us too since we just have to walk a couple of hundred yards to get medical treatment.”
Earlier this month, the Bank of the Pacific donated the now-closed Naselle branch office building to the Ocean Beach Hospital. Reportedly, the hospital will move the clinic to the ex-bank building once they are able to come up with the $350,000 they say is needed for reconfiguring the building. (Significant funding is identified for the project in the pending 2019-21 Washington state budget; see page A7.)
“I suppose we’ll find another use for the building after they move out,” said Swanson.
In the meantime, the clinic continues to operate in the building purchased by the Swansons and located on their property. The residents of Naselle and neighboring communities owe a debt of gratitude to this wonderful couple who saw a community need and were willing to invest their time and savings to meet that need.