Dr. Olav H. Hegge

Born March 20, 1872 – Died November 4, 1963

Dr. Olav H. Hegge, was born in Biri Parish, county of Chistiana, Norway on March 20, 1872. His ancestors had lived at this place for at least three centuries. Olav was the youngest of five children: four brothers and one sister. His father died when he was only three years old and left him enough property to enable him to procure a good education. He began to attend school at the age of seven and kept it up every year until he was 22 years old. When he was 13 years old he left his mother’s home to attend Biri Provincial School and soon advanced to Gjoevik High School, where he took scientific courses embracing physics, chemistry, higher mathematics and modern languages. He graduated with highest honors on July 10, 1888. After spending the summer at home he left for the city of Christiana, the capital of Norway, where he entered Aar and Vos College. In the fall of 1890 he decided to go to America.

Hegge was induced to go to the United States by his brother, who had traveled to America two year earlier. Two days after arriving in America, he enrolled at the University of Minnesota Medical School in Minneapolis where his brother attended college. Both brothers made up their minds to enter the medical profession. In the fall of 1892 they went to Chicago and entered the College of Physicians and Surgeons. On April 13, 1893 the two brothers graduated Summa Cum Laude, having attained the degree of Doctor of Medicine.

Dr. O.H. Hegge then went to St. Paul. Minnesota, where he was appointed house surgeon to the Bethesda Hospital. He served one full year in this position and gained a great deal of practical experience during this time. In January, 1894, Dr. Hegge passed the state medical examining board of the state of Minnesota, and thus had completed all of the requirements of the law and was duly qualified to begin the practice of medicine for himself.

In the spring of 1894, he moved to Austin, Minnesota, and began to practice medicine with his brother, Dr. C.A. Hegge, who moved to Austin four months earlier. Drs. Hegge and Hegge formed a partnership on May 15, 1894, and steadily increased their time and attention to expand their practice. They first occupied a small office in the rear of C.A. Pooler’s drugstore and maintained branch offices, with special days in Blooming Prairie and Grand Meadow.

Since there was no hospital in the area, Dr. Hegge and his brother formed the Austin Hospital Association and worked with local community leaders including the Norwegian Lutheran churches in Austin to secure a $7000 loan to build Austin’s first hospital at 916 Lansing Ave.

St. Olav Hospital and Training School, opened its doors on June 13, 1897.  Drs. O.H. Hegge and C.A. Hegge, along with Lena Nelson, the sister in charge (head nurse) served as the regular hospital staff. The facility was open to all physicians and surgeons in the area. During its first year, the hospital would treat 157 patients. In 1904, Dr. Hegge founded the Mower County Medical Society and served as its first president.

Dr. Hegge married Stella L. Johnson on April 20, 1898 and this union blessed them with three children, Milda, Rolv and Valfrid. The family home was located at 811 High Street (3rd St. NW) in Austin. They later moved to 402 Mankato St.(8th Place NW) in 1930.

Dr. Hegge was a devoted member of St. Olaf Lutheran Church in Austin and cared deeply for its sustainability. On the afternoon of Monday, August 20, 1928, a tornado struck Austin and caused considerable damage to the church which was located on the corner of Bridge and St. Paul Streets. Hegge was the driving force behind building a new church. The large window behind the choir loft, is in memory of Mrs. Hegge’s parents, Seymour and Lena Johnson.

Dr. Hegge retired from the active practice of medicine in 1955. He died at the age of 91 at St. Olaf Hospital, the hospital he founded, after suffering a stroke. The citizens of Austin will forever be grateful for his vision to build a hospital and bring quality healthcare to the community.  

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