OGDEN — A hospital, by definition, is supposed to be a sterile environment.
So when, in 1971, a massive mural by Utah artist Lorin G. Folland Jr. went up inside the entrance to McKay-Dee Hospital, it showed that while a medical facility needed to be free from bacteria and other living microorganisms, it didn’t have to be so darned, well ... sterile.
Richard Taylor, chief development officer at McKay-Dee, has been around hospitals for 36 years. He remembers passing that mural thousands of times in his comings and goings.
“It was kind of a warm part of the hospital,” Taylor said. “It helped the hospital feel like a piece of the community. When you saw that mural, it wasn’t just a sterile environment — it didn’t seem to be a hospital, it felt more like a home.”
In 2002, when McKay-Dee moved less than a mile south on Harrison Boulevard to the hospital’s current location, the mural went into storage. But today, it’s out of mothballs and back on display in the new hospital — at least for the near future, and possibly longer.
The David O. McKay mural is a five-panel painting on stained hardwood, measuring a massive 10 feet tall and 23 feet wide. Each of the five panels depicts one of the “loves” in the life of the former LDS Church president and hospital’s namesake — love of home and family, love of learning, love of God, love of neighbor, and love of country.
The mural is currently on display in the education hall across from the Thomas D. Dee Auditorium at the hospital, 4401 Harrison Blvd. It’s accessible for viewing anytime during the facility’s visiting hours.
The mural was last on display back in 2010, as part of an exhibit at Ogden’s Union Station, according to Nathan Alexander, communications specialist with McKay-Dee Hospital. Recently, as hospital staff were going through that storage, they came across the mural panels.
“We didn’t realize what great condition it was in,” Alexander said. “So we decided to have it available to the public again. I totally geeked out about it, because I remember seeing it when I was little, going to the hospital when my brother was born.”
Folland, the mural’s artist, was born in Idaho and received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Utah, according to Taylor. Folland later taught art at Olympus High School, Brigham Young University and the U of U.
The original mural’s commision was a joint venture between the hospital’s foundation and Mr. and Mrs. Norman Bingham of Ogden.
“They paid about $10,000 for it in the day,” Alexander said.
Charisse Hupp’s grandmother was a cousin to the artist.
“I grew up knowing a family member painted it,” said Hupp, whose title is continuous improvement business partner at the hospital. “It was always a part of our family.”
After the old hospital closed in 2002, Hupp says her grandmother would regularly ask her where the mural had gone.
So last month, when it finally returned to the new hospital?
“My grandmother was so pleased,” Hupp said. “The people in the mural were Lorin’s family, so we recognize the faces. Those are cousins of ours in the mural.”
Kathy Calton, a house supervisor at McKay-Dee, is a third generation nurse for the various incarnations of the Dee hospitals. She recalls going to see the then-LDS-president on his way to the dedication of the hospital across from then-Weber State College, in 1969.
“I remember we lived down the street from the old McKay-Dee, and we all walked up the street and stood along the road as David O. McKay rode by in his vehicle,” she said. “I was pretty small — 6 or 7 years old — but I do remember him being there, and how crowded it was. It was a huge deal when the prophet came to dedicate the building.”
McKay, a Huntsville native, passed away in early 1970. A year later, the mural was added to the hospital.
Calton said it was “kind of sad” that the mural has been in storage all these years.
“I was like, ‘Why is that not out on display?’” she said. “It’s cool, and a part of our history. It would be fun to have it somewhere in the hospital permanently.”
Calton may get her wish.
Although the mural was scheduled to be on display for a limited time, Alexander said they’re working on getting the right permissions to be able to put it on permanent display at the hospital — he puts the chances of that happening at about 95 percent.
“Right now we’re trying to find the right archival glass to protect it,” he said.
Taylor said the panels were put up last month, as the hospital’s nod to Pioneer Days and the history of Ogden. He, too, hopes they’re able to make the mural a permanent part of the hospital.
“I think we have a fantastic legacy and history in this hospital,” Taylor said. “I’m so grateful we can maintain this.”