First McHenry hospital founder recognized

McHENRY – The dinner parties at the Gladstone home were always full of interesting people discussing politics, medicine, art and architecture.

Dr. Lee Gladstone was a doctor in the then-small rural community, but he had “tremendous drive” to bring specialists and the newest medicine to the area, said longtime friend Charles Liebman.

Gladstone was ultimately successful, and in 1956, a larger building was built next to the clinic to accommodate what had grown into the first hospital in McHenry.

“He was interested in anything and everything in the community, so it really was a very representative group, almost all the time,” Liebman said. “The very nature of his activity was such that he just got to know anybody and everybody. ... He was just full of vitality. To spend an evening with them was tiring. I used to come home exhausted.”

Liebman and his wife, Mary, had gone to Gladstone’s clinic because one of their children had an ear infection. They walked away with an invitation to dinner.

Gertrude Gladstone was always baking because she never knew when her husband was going to bring someone home for dinner, said her daughter, Lorna Gladstone.

The hospital is no longer there – it closed in 1980, replaced by the Northern Illinois Medical Center, now Centegra Hospital – but the Riverwalk Foundation has installed a plaque at the site in memory of Gladstone, said Cynthia Locke, the chairwoman of the foundation’s public relations committee.

Gladstone’s favorite tree, a burr oak, will be planted at the site.

“As we plan and continue to develop the Riverwalk, there is a commitment to the things like commercial development, obviously things that are going to enhance the community,” she said. “We want to not only move forward and enhance the city but also to respect and honor the people that have come before.”

The memorial will be dedicated at 11:30 a.m. May 22, near the gazebo at the entrance to the site, adjacent to Buddyz Pizza, 1138 N. Green St. The Gladstones’ children, Lorna and Evan, will be present.

Gladstone moved to McHenry after serving as a U.S. Army doctor during World War II, opening his practice in 1947. His family had moved to the area, relocating the family-owned department store.

Lorna Gladstone would stop by the clinic on her way home from school.

“I knew everybody, and they were all friends,” she said. “It felt familial to me. It was small, and it was safe, and it was warm, and everybody was from the community. Everybody knew everybody at that point. The community was small. But when I would stop by after school, it was just a little kid visiting friends and saying hello to her dad.”

The clinic was flat-roofed and modern – like the Gladstones’ home – and the artwork had been chosen by Gertrude Gladstone. She would make ornaments for the clinic’s Christmas tree out of paper mache.

She had a “collector’s appetite” and organized an art show to raise money for the hospital, Liebman said.

The funniest detail about the clinic, Liebman said, was that the atrium was filled with white rabbits, which were used in an early test for pregnancy. It worked by injecting a woman’s urine into a rabbit and then checking the rabbit’s ovaries to see if they had reacted to a hormone only present in pregnant women.

By the time the hospital closed, Gladstone had moved on, completing a residency in psychiatry at Northwestern Memorial Hospital where he subsequently ran its first alcoholism treatment program, the first of several programs he created.

By the time he died in March 2003 at the age of 88, Gladstone was known internationally as a leading authority on alcohol and substance abuse.

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