Today, Rancho Mirage is home to The Eisenhower Medical Center – but, if not for frozen TV dinners and a tragic round of golf, the hospital may never have been built in the Coachella Valley.
The story comes from the Palm Springs Historical society, as relayed by Palm Springs Life, and took place in 1961 at Thunderbird Country Club:
W. Clarke Swanson, former president of Swanson Foods, was golfing with former President Dwight D. Eisenhower when Swanson suffered a massive stroke. The closest medical facility was in Palm Springs, 11 miles away from the country club. Swanson, who was in his late 50s, did not make it to the hospital in time.
Shortly after Swanson’s death, a group of prominent desert residents and directors of the Palm Springs Desert Golf Classic, later named the Bob Hope Desert Golf Classic, placed a portion of the surplus funds from the tournament in trust to build a community hospital in the Palm Desert-Rancho Mirage area.
As word of the project spread, former president Dwight D. Eisenhower with his wife, Mamie, showed great interest in the project and with their consent the proposed hospital was to be named Eisenhower Medical Center.
It took 10 years of fundraising to make it happen and construction began on the hospital in 1969. Two years later, Eisenhower Medical Center opened with 289 beds.
But, if not for a tragic round of golf played by a man who made a living selling frozen TV dinners, the hospital might not be there today.