The Origin of Rose Medical Center, Denver, Colorado

Honoring the People Who Created What We've Inherited

During 1944, under the leadership of Maurice Shwayder, one of the founders of the Samsonite luggage company, some of Denver's Jewish physicians and community leaders began to raise $750,000 to build a new hospital on the east side of Denver.


Sol Bassow, MD, published an open letter in the March 5, 1945, issue of the Intermountain Jewish News:

"In any organized community, the recipients of community advantages must contribute proportionately to those advantages to maintain their self respect in that community.

"The Jews of Denver, as a group, availed themselves for many years of hospital facilities through the grace and generosity of the hospital-minded Catholics and Protestants. Our welcome in these institutions is in direct ratio to our ability to pay and to the beds available. As the demand for hospitalization increases and the bed supply decreases, the market value of our welcome begins to show a definite drop. To reaffirm our position, as respected citizens of the community, it is imperative that the Jewish Group sponsor a fair proportion of the hospital facilities as its personal contribution to the community in which they live.

"It is for this reason that the Denver Jewry is urged to give the contemplated new Jewish hospital their generous, deserving and unified support. When built, the hospital will adequately meet the needs of the Jewish profession, of the Jewish community; it will discharge our long past due debt to the City of Denver; and will serve as a monument to which future generations of Jews will point with profound reverence and justifiable pride."
On March 9, 1945, Maurice Shwayder led an organizational meeting at the Green Gables Country Club to discuss the need for a new hospital on Denver's east side. Speakers included Rabbi Herbert Friedman, Sol H. Bassow, MD, Herman Laff, MD, Eugene Auer, MD, and Maurice Katzman, MD. Many members of the Denver Jewish community were present and expressed their enthusiastic support for the new hospital.

On April 12, the Rose Hospital Association was incorporated by I.L. Quiat and Louis G. Isaacson, and 37 board members were appointed. The board met for the first time on April 26, 1945, at the Cosmopolitan Hotel. Temporary offices of the Rose Hospital Association were established at Denver Buick building at 700 Broadway in Denver, thanks to Lou Cohan, the owner.

On May 17, 1945 entertainer Eddie Cantor spoke at the General Rose Memorial Hospital Dinner, which raised $95,000 for the new hospital.

Max Goldberg — founder of Denver's Max Goldberg Advertising Agency, publisher of the Intermountain Jewish News, president of the Denver chapter of B'nai B'rith, and a founder of General Rose Memorial Hospital — handled publicity for the hospital for many years before and after its opening. He arranged for many of the nation's most popular entertainers to appear at benefits for the hospital.

On June 24, the Rose Hospital fundraising drive began with this leadership:
  • General Chairman — Maurice Shwayder
  • Women's Division — Fannie S. Grimes
  • Downtown Division — Dave Cook
  • Big Gifts Chairman — Lou Cohan
On July 5, the Rose Hospital fundraising group announced that $640,000 had been raised — well more than $8,000,000 in 2012 dollars.

On August 9, a Rose Hospital building committee was appointed:
  • Maurice Shwayder
  • Max Grimes
  • Joe Alpert
  • Lou Cohan
  • Ben Cook
  • Sam Fox
  • Hy Friedman
  • Morris Miller
  • Henry Winter
Max and Fannie Grimes owned the Grimes Machinery, Wrecking, Iron, Metal & Supply Company in Denver.

On August 23, 1945, physicians meeting at the Green Gables Country Club elected the following Building Advisory Committee:
  • Eugene Auer, MD
  • Sol Bassow, MD
  • Herman Laff, MD
  • Bernard E. Cohn, MD
  • Maurice Katzman, MD
Dr. Sol Bassow reported that in 1945, there were 35 Jewish physicians in Denver.

The General Rose Memorial Hospital Women's Division was established in 1945. In 1946, 800 women attended the organizational luncheon for the General Rose Memorial Hospital Women's Division, which was chaired by Fannie S. Grimes. In 1983, the organization changed its name to the Rose Medical Center Auxiliary.

US Army Major General Maurice Rose (1899-1945)

Major General Maurice Rose On April 5, 1945, US Army Major General Maurice Rose — whose family had moved to Denver when he was an infant, and who had attended East High School — was shot and killed in action in Paderborn, Germany, at age 45. His 3rd Armored "Spearhead" Division had just been the first to enter Germany, and his tanks were moving an average of 92 miles a day towards Berlin.

General Rose was buried temporarily in Ittenbach, Germany, about 12 miles southwest of Bonn. His remains were later moved to the Netherlands American Cemetery in Margraten, The Netherlands, about 6 miles east of Maastricht, and about 78 miles east of Brussels, Belgium.

Five days after General Rose died, Rabbi Charles Hillel Kauvar — who had officiated at Maurice Rose's Bar Mitzvah — conducted the first memorial service, at Denver's BMH (Beth HaMedrosh Hagadol).

On August 30, 1945, the US Army's 3rd Armored Division announced that it had raised $30,000 for the Rose Hospital in honor of its fallen leader, General Maurice Rose.

Rose Hospital and Social Justice

In 1947, while Rose Hospital was under construction, its Physicians' Conference Committee was writing by-laws, rules, and regulations that would govern the hospital's medical staff. Until this time, Denver hospitals required physicians who applied for a staff appointment to be a member of the Medical Society of the City and County of Denver.

The Rose physicians' committee decided that a physician "has to be a member of the Denver County Medical Society or eligible to membership by virtue of his or her medical training" (emphasis added).

This rule was included for the specific purpose of making it possible for African-American physicians — who were not accepted by the Medical Society of the City and County of Denver — to be admitted to the Rose Hospital staff.

Edmond F. Noel, MD — a World War II veteran who was a native of Jackson, Mississippi — subsequently became the first African-American physician to receive staff privileges at General Rose Memorial Hospital. Dr. Noel was therefore the first African-American with staff privileges at any Denver hospital. Other African-American physicians soon applied, and other Denver hospitals — and the Medical Society of the City and County of Denver — followed the lead of Rose Hospital.

Although it would take public accommodations and other institutions in Colorado a decade or two longer to end desegregation, General Rose Memorial Hospital ended it in 1949. Colorado's Jewish community reinvigorated Colorado's humanitarian healthcare tradition with a simple but profound strategy: the addition of a dozen well-chosen words to the staff regulations.

General Rose Memorial Hospital

On May 6, 1948, band leader and radio personality Kay Kyser — who declared that May was "General Rose Memorial Month" — performed at the opening of the Rose Hospital fundraising drive. The goal was to raise $600,000 in one month to complete and furnish the new hospital.

On May 13, 1948, Denver attorney and former CU football star Byron White, actor Errol Flynn, General Courtney H. Hodges, and actor and singer Al Jolson appeared at a fundraising dinner for Rose Hospital.

On June 3, 1948, Maurice B. Shwayder — the 55-year-old founding chairman of the General Rose Memorial Hospital board — died in Denver before he could see the new hospital that was his to such a great extent. He was succeeded as chairman of the hospital board by Lou Cohan, who served until 1951.

General Dwight D. Eisenhower laying the cornerstone of General Rose Memorial Hospital, 1948

On August 31, 1948, General Dwight D. Eisenhower, who had known General Maurice Rose personally, laid the cornerstone for the new General Rose Memorial Hospital. Six months later, General Eisenhower returned to Denver for the dedication of the new hospital.


On March 1, 1949, the 250-bed, six-story General Rose Memorial Hospital opened in Denver — at East 9th Avenue and Clermont Street, about three blocks east of Colorado Boulevard — following a five-year national fundraising campaign by a group of Jewish physicians and community leaders led by Maurice Shwayder.

Those leaders had suggested that Denver needed an acute care hospital where physicians and patients of all creeds, races, and national origins would feel welcome. The hospital was intended "to serve the need of every creed," as the late Maurice Shwayder had liked to say.

Benefit performances by some of the most popular entertainers in the country including Jerry Lewis, Bob Hope, Al Jolson, Jack Benny, Eddie Cantor, Jimmy Durante, Danny Kaye, Kay Kyser and his band, and Groucho Marx — and that $30,000 donation by members of General Rose's 3rd Armored Division — had aided the fundraising effort.

Rose Hospital's motto was declared to be: "Our standards are simply higher."

General Rose Memorial Hospital, 1948
General Rose Memorial Hospital, Denver, Colorado, 1949

The hospital had been designed by Denver architects Roland L. Linder and Earl C. Morris.

In 1977, the name of General Rose Memorial Hospital was changed to Rose Medical Center.


Sheila Bugdanowitz, executive director of the Rose Community Foundation, has generously given access to Foundation's historical materials about General Rose Memorial Hospital / Rose Medical Center.

Gretchen Perryman, Sheila's executive assistant, has quickly and patiently answered questions and responded to requests.

The photographs of General Eisenhower laying the cornerstone and of General Rose Memorial Hospital in 1949 are courtesy of the Rose Community Foundation.

The photograph of General Rose was scanned by Matthew D. Kaufman from a post-WWII 3rd Armored division government publication "Spearhead in the West," that was published by the Division while they were still in occupied Germany. Mr. Kaufman placed this scanned photograph on Wikipedia and granted anyone the right to use this work for any purpose, without any conditions, unless such conditions are required by law. See Wikipedia: "Maurice Rose"


Sol H. Bassow, MD, and Abe Ravin, MD: The First Twenty-Five Years of the General Rose Memorial Hospital, 1945-1970. Denver: Rose Hospital, 1970.

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: "Who Was General Rose," Intermountain Jewish News Literary Supplement, November 26, 2010.

Steven L. Ossad and Don R. Marsh: Major General Maurice Rose: World War II's Greatest Forgotten General. Foreword by Martin Blumenson. Lanham, Maryland: Taylor Trade Publishing, 2003.

Andy Rooney wrote about his encounter with General Rose in his book, My War.

"Maj. Gen. Maurice Rose, who had been with the Second Armored Division at Saint-Lô, was now the commander of the Third Armored and he may have been the best tank commander of the war. He was a leader down where they fight.

"Not all great generals were recognized. Maurice Rose was a great one and had a good reputation among the people who knew what was going on, but his name was not in the headlines as Patton's so often was. Rose led from the front of his armored division."
The 3rd Armored Division History Foundation has an extensive section of its website devoted to Major General Maurice Rose. We strongly recommend that Coloradans use it to learn more about General Rose.

Contact book [at] coloradohealthcarehistory [dot] com or @ColoradoHealth on Twitter with additions, corrections, suggestions, or for more information. Thank you!

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Copyright © 2013 Thomas J. Sherlock
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