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Joan Gilson’s 70 Years of History with The Valley Hospital


As construction continues at the site of The Valley Hospital in Paramus, there is a buzz of excitement as the community awaits the opening of the new hospital. For one resident, the anticipation feels familiar. Now 99 years old, Joan Gilson was The Valley Hospital’s second-ever employee. She recalls watching from her office at the original Kurth Cottage as the hospital took shape at the corner of Linwood and North Van Dien Avenues. 70 years later, she is excited for Valley’s next chapter. “Imagine this,” Joan says. “In the little 108 bed hospital that opened in 1951 there was one emergency room with a bench outside it for maybe three or four people. If only J. Robert Stout, the driving force behind the hospital, could see this new one.”

A New Jersey native, Joan moved to Ridgewood in 1925 at the age of 3. Upon graduation from college, she moved to Chicago as a buyer for Sears Roebuck & Co., but it wasn’t long before she returned east. In 1949 and back in Ridgewood, a friend asked if Joan would be interested in taking over her volunteer office job for the hospital being built in town. Intrigued by this new venture, Joan said yes. And so began her 32-year career at The Valley Hospital, well before doors even opened to the public. “You don’t wait until it’s August 8, 1951 to start the work,” she says with a laugh. She was quickly hired into a paid position supporting the hospital’s first administrator, and spent those early years at Valley assisting with a variety of tasks, like hiring staff, purchasing equipment, and helping to establish a centralized personnel department. Joan eventually moved into what would become Medical Staff Administration, where she retired as Director in 1982. “Right from the beginning, I worked closely with heads of medical departments and committee chairmen. I grew and learned a lot during my time there, and loved that this work contributed to an organization with a worthwhile mission.”

Valley remains an important part of Joan’s life. She has enjoyed serving as a hospital volunteer and visiting with church members admitted as patients. Joan has also been a generous donor to Valley for 50 years. She is a Lifetime Benefactor at the Bronze level, a Legacy donor who has included Valley in her estate plans and has a charitable gift annuity with The Valley Hospital Foundation. Today she is counted amongst the Foundation’s Leadership Donors with her recent gift in support of The Valley Hospital in Paramus. “It has really been a big part of a good number of years of my life, and I feel very attached to it,” Joan says, reflecting on her long history with Valley. “I have watched the hospital grow into what it is today. I certainly wanted to support it so it can continue to be strong, and be the best for future generations.”