Dick Joseph was just passing through on a train from Sacramento to Colorado in 1917 when he stepped out of the locomotive at its Truckee stop. A short walk through town changed his future, and eventually led to the foundation of the Tahoe Forest Hospital as we know it today.
Joseph, an Armenian-born immigrant, was born in 1890 and came to the U.S. in 1906. He settled in Truckee with his wife, Margaret, and by the 1920s he was running Manstyle Barbers, the Donner Hotel, and the Pastime Club. Soon, he bought a tract of Union Ice Company land that stretched from the Gateway area to Donner Lake.
The Josephs had a boy named Levon, and soon Margaret was pregnant with twin girls. But due to medical complications, Margaret died shortly after giving birth. In those days Truckee had only a small hospital located in Brickelltown that had already proved inadequate when the devastating Spanish Flu hit the town.
Joseph believed that his wife might have survived had Truckee had a full-service hospital, and he took it upon himself to resolve the situation. In 1951 he donated the land on which Tahoe Forest Hospital now sits, and his family continued to give generously to finance the new medical facility.
In 1986 Joseph and his sisters donated more land and $100,000 to build a skilled nursing facility. Ten years later, Joseph’s sister Roxie donated more land, which she had inherited from her brother, for the hospital’s expansion, according to the Truckee Donner Historical Society.
According to Tahoe Forest Hospital, Dick Joseph summed up his satisfaction with his role founding Tahoe Forest Hospital with a single sentence.
“I love to build things that will carry on,” he said.
~ David Bunker, Moonshine Ink