Tucson Medical Center is marking its 70th anniversary this year, commemorating the day its first patient was admitted, on Nov. 9, 1944.
The picturesque grounds of Tucson Medical Center have always fostered a healing environment, bringing extensive elements of the Sonoran Desert to the campus at Grant and Craycroft. And so it has been since the days of the Desert Sanatorium, the first occupant of the site.
One man’s handiwork is most responsible for this longstanding heritage – the man known as the “Kactus Kid.”
Rutger Porter was the man with the shovel and the pickup truck – the man who transplanted a wide variety of desert plants to create a dazzling desert landscape at the Desert Sanatorium in the late 1920s. The owner of the Desert San, Anna Erickson, hired Porter because of his agricultural expertise and love of local plants. Porter and his friend, author Harold Bell Wright, researched and located the cacti and other plants that made the Desert Sanatorium famous as a beautiful desert destination.
When Erickson donated the Desert San to the community to become Tucson Medical Center, the scenery was part of the deal. Throughout its history, groundskeepers have been valuable members of the team that makes TMC a unique place of healing. The patios and open spaces have given patients and their families a connection with nature that few other hospitals could match.
Tucson Medical Center’s landscaping has been recently enhanced during major construction projects, with new walking trails and roads around the campus – recognizing the legacy of the Kactus Kid.
Beyond TMC’s boundaries, Rutger Porter and wife Bernice left an additional legacy, apparent today at Tucson Botanical Gardens. The home where the Porters raised their family and ran a plant nursery now forms the core of Tucson Botanical Gardens (TBG), on Alvernon Way just south of Grant Road.
As TMC marks its 70th anniversary of patient care, TBG marks its 40th anniversary at its Alvernon site this year – with a special gala coming up in October. The details are on their web site: www.tucsonbotanical.org/2014/07/40th-anniversary-gala/