Beaver Medical Group Celebrates 75 Years
December 17, 2020 1:00 AM –12:00 PM
75 years: Dr. Beaver and his clinic
On a crisp night in December 1945, Dr. Meredith Beaver walked alone through empty exam rooms with their glowing glass block windows. It had been a long time coming, he thought, too long. As it had done with most things, the war turned his plans upside down, but he remained determined and now it was finally happening.
He was about to open the Beaver Clinic.
Dr. Beaver—Beavo to his friends—had come to Redlands in 1931 after completing a distinguished fellowship at the Mayo Clinic. Dr. Ed Burke was looking for an associate who could help with surgery at his private Redlands Heights Sanitarium—and the Southern California climate seemed more appealing to the 32-year-old’s family than a competing offer from frigid Edmonton, Canada.
Despite the Depression, the pair prospered. By 1939, Dr. Burke and Dr. Beaver had sold off the old sanitarium and broken ground on a new clapboard medical/dental building on W. Fern St. with Dr. Joe Hayhurst and a dentist, Dr. William Miller. And then, months after opening in 1941, America declared war. By that point, Dr. Beaver had already done his part for his country and then some. He’d served at 17 in World War I with an Army artillery battery and had seen action in major battles throughout France. After armistice, he surprised his family by turning up alive after the Army mistakenly declared him killed in action. After that, his interest in the military never waned: after earning medical degrees from the Universities of Oregon and Minnesota, he volunteered as a Captain in the Medical Reserve Corps.
As one of the country’s top surgeons, Dr. Beaver was quickly recruited at the outbreak of World War II to help organize and overhaul the surgical practices of the 9th Service Command, which treated casualties from the southeast Pacific. He proved himself to be an able leader: inspiring, demanding, innovative, and most of all, effective at saving lives. Within a year he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and placed in charge of the 90 Army hospitals in the western U.S.
As he made the rounds of the hospitals, he became close with a number of the doctors, including Gordon Witter, Espey Cannon, Jim Gillespie, Elwyn “Brownie” Brown, and Ralph Weaver—and two talented administrators, Les Richardson and Jean Canon. The workload was immense. By the time the war ended, he was ready to go home.
In the meantime, the situation in Redlands had changed. Dr. Hayhurst was still practicing, but Dr. Burke—his partner for over a decade—was ready to retire. Since the Fern St. building could only accommodate four doctors, Beavo turned to his Army buddies Dr. Witter and Dr. Cannon to round out the team. Les Richardson would set up the books, Dr. Hayhurst’s sister-in-law Kay Cocharan would handle the front desk, and Jean Canon would manage everything else.
A few weeks before the start of 1946, the freshly-renamed clinic placed an ad in the local paper for its grand opening, finally ready to serve the people of Redlands. The community responded. Almost immediately, the original building was expanded to allow for more doctors to meet the demand, including the rest of the wartime crew. Seven years later, it expanded again.
Over time, the Beaver Clinic would continue to add staff and specialties, adapt to changes, build on successes, and incorporate new ideas to improve the health of its community. That Beaver Medical Group has grown and endured for 75 years is testament to Beavo’s original vision—and his persistence. Many thanks to Betty Davis for her invaluable research and long-time service to Beaver Medical Group.