Greenville hospital’s first administrator dies at age 99

By Cory Smith • Last Updated 10:23 pm on Friday, May 16, 2014

Joseph Dascola

GREENVILLE —  In his final moments, Joseph Dascola came to be at peace in the very hospital he spent so many years working to see flourish into the expansive complex that it is today.

At 99 years of age, Dascola died Wednesday at Spectrum Health United Hospital in Greenville — the same hospital in which he served as the first administrator from 1950 to 1979 when it was known as United Memorial Hospital.

“That was the building he helped build for the community,” his son, Tony Dascola said. “It was a community hospital. He helped transform it from a little clinic to the great hospital it is today.”

Dascola was hired to help oversee the hospital’s transition from a 35-bed house on Orange Street to a modern facility at Bower and Oak streets.

In 1950 he was hired as the hospital’s first administrator. He and his wife, Dorothy, along with their four children, Tony, James, Terese and Suzanne, made Greenville their home.

Two years after he was hired, the new facility opened in 1952. The new structure signified a significant change in health care for Greenville and surrounding communities, as doctors shifted away from traditional house calls as patients now came to see physicians at the hospital.

Under Dascola’s leadership, the hospital continued to grow, both in staff and structurally.

In 1967, a new 40-bed long-term care facility was added, followed by a new emergency room, outpatient care facility and ancillary service department in 1977.

According to Dascola’s children, it was his personality and qualities as a leader and father that helped him carry out such success at the hospital.

“He had the respect of his workers and the community, and with enough money, they built the expanded care unit,” Tony Dascola said. “He was honest, truthful, and had respect for people and human life. He believed in working as a team and was very well balanced. He wanted to be fair to everyone.”

“He hired people who he knew were the best, who he knew had good character,” his son James Dascola said. “If it wasn’t for the people he hired, he wouldn’t have been as successful as he was.”

That constant growth and expansion that Dascola helped guide and see through to finalization has continued well past his leadership, as the hospital has since added the Hendrick & Gezina Meijer Surgery & Patient Care Center, as well as major renovations to all outpatient services, which include the Stanley and Blanche Ash Emergency Department, Bill Braman Family Diagnostic Center, Ray and Mary Tower Main Lobby, Spectrum Health United Heart and Vascular Center and Patient Access and Registration and Cardiology Center.

Joseph Dascola grew up from humble beginnings, living in poverty through the great depression, coming from a family of Italian immigrants, before earning his education at the University of Michigan, earning a bachelor’s degree in 1938 and master’s degree in business administration in 1941.

He then served in the United States military as an Army captain in the medical administrative corps from 1942 to 1946 during World War II, working in Kenach, India at General Hospital servicing the United State base.

In looking back, James Dascola said the many values his father taught he and his siblings have helped them to lead better lives.

“When we were growing up, we were taught discipline,” he said. “We were taught to do housework at a very early age. We hated it, my brother and I, but we learned from it.”

James Dascola said the values of being frugal and managing money correctly were instilled in himself and his siblings at an early age.

“After much begging, we were paid an allowance of 10 cents a week,” he said. “We were excited to finally earn a small income as young children, but we were disappointed to find that come Sunday, our father informed us that we needed to donate to the collection plate at church. Placing our 10 cents in an envelope, just like that, it was gone.”

Despite the quick loss of the cherished allowance, James Dascola said it was small lessons like that, that he will always remember.

“He taught us, if you wanted money, you went out and earned it,” he said. “He was a very frugal and wise man.”

“It was because of his involvement and personal support that I felt like I was number one, despite not being the best,” Tony Dascola said. “He made a lot of people in this community feel like they were number one.”

A funeral for Joesph Dascola will be 11 a.m. Saturday at St. Charles Catholic Church in Greenville.

Visitation will be from 6 to 8 p.m. tonight at Marshal Funeral Home in Greenville with a rosary at 8 p.m. Visitation will also be from 10 a.m. until Mass on Saturday at the church.

In his own words, written in the closing line of his memoirs, Joseph Dascola showed his appreciation for the community in which he lived.

“May the Lord’s blessings be upon all who shared in my life and years of love,” he wrote.

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