Today in 1953 was a big day in Woodruff, in far northern Wisconsin.

Some 10,000 people took part in a Memorial Day “Penny Parade” to raise money for a new hospital, urged on by the leader of the effort, Dr. Kate Pelham Newcomb, or as she was known to so many there, Dr. Kate.

She was born in Kansas and grew up in Buffalo, New York.

It took years for her to convince her reluctant father to let her attend medical school, and while it certainly wasn’t easy for women doctors in the mid 20th Century, she definitely made her mark after moving to her husband’s hometown in northern Wisconsin.

The Wisconsin Historical Society says she was one of just two doctors serving the area.

Treating those patients often involved traveling to them.

Sometimes she drove, but at other times she had to canoe to them, or ski, or snowmobile, or walk, even in the snow.

Dr. Kate’s winter trips to patients earned her the nickname “An Angel on Snowshoes.”

She started vaccination programs and worked to clean up the local water supply.

She oversaw thousands of births, and every one of the mothers in those births lived.

In the 1950s, Newcomb started pushing for a hospital in Woodruff, saying how those in her area who needed hospital care had to travel quite a ways to get it.

She started raising money the way people usually do, but she also teamed up with some high school geometry students who wanted to do an experiment to show people just how big the number one million really was.

Their campaign to raise a million pennies, complete with a Penny Parade, not only brought in money for the hospital project, it brought a lot of attention to their goal.

Dr. Kate appeared on the national TV show This Is Your Life, which raised hundreds of thousands of dollars from all over the country, and in 1954 the Lakeland Memorial Hospital opened in Woodruff.

Today Woodruff is home to the Dr. Kate Museum, which tells the story of Kate Pelham Newcomb and the hospital she made possible.

And, appropriately, that museum is home to “the world’s largest penny.”

In 1991, Nick Chowdury was fishing near the Comox Marina on Vancouver Island when his wallet ended up in the water.

Three decades later, 14 year old Jamie Lee was fishing near the same spot when he caught Chowdhury’s old wallet.

Lee was able to return it to its owner, though he said “it was super crusty.”

Penny Facts (Dr. Kate Museum)

Dr. Kate Museum in Woodruff, Wisconsin continues to honor the legacy of Dr. Kate Pelham Newcomb (WUWM)

‘A blast from the past’: Lost wallet returns to Comox man after 33 years (Comox Valley Record)

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Photo by slgckgc via Flickr/Creative Commons