Former hospital administrator McVeety dies

ALPENA –John McVeety is being remembered as someone who was a tenacious fighter who worked hard to make Alpena a better place to live. McVeety died unexpectedly at his home Thursday. He was 72.

McVeety was a hospital administrator in Alpena for more than 30 years.

According to people who knew him best and worked with him, McVeety was a fighter who had a hard time taking no for an answer when he believed in a cause. One of those causes was to expand Alpena General Hospital from a small county owned facilit into one that could grow in size and offer top-notch specialty care.

As CEO, he was able to grow the hospital to nearly three times the size it was when he was hired, as well as triple the number of employees and doctors who treated patients. It also became a regional hospital and renamed Alpena Regional Medical Center.

Al Moe worked directly under McVeety as COO for 30 years. He said McVeety would allow him the freedom to start his own initiatives and projects.

Moe said during McVeety’s time at the hospital there was between $70 million and $80 million pumped into the facility. He said the one thing he admired about McVeety was how he would fight for things he believed would make the hospital and community better. Moe said one of those things was an effort to form a relationship with the University of Michigan.

“Many people figured that was out of reach, but he didn’t think it was,” Moe said. “He held out for it, got it and that helped lead to the cancer center being built. With a lesser person I don’t think we would have seen the growth at the hospital we have.”

Outside of work McVeety was active in the community. He served on the Alpena Area Chamber of Commerce board and the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary Advisory Board. In 2001 he was awarded the chamber’s Outstanding Citizen of the Year award.

Former Mayor Carol Shafto has known McVeety for more than 30 years. She said they were always friends, but they became even closer in the last half decade. She said the news of her friend’s death has devastated her.

Shafto described him as a man who was a tough, strong leader who had a heart of gold.

“He was my best guy friend and I trusted him completely,” Shafto said. “He had a deep love for this town and was very committed to the community, family and friends. We were very close and he will be missed deeply.”

McVeety received a bachelor’s degree from Wartburg College, as well as a master’s degree from the University of Iowa. He served as the chairman of Michigan Health & Hospital Association and was active in the Iowa Hospital Association and Minnesota Hospital Association.

Former Rogers City Mayor Beach Hall said years ago McVeety approached Rogers City for funding. Hall said he told him that as long as the name of the hospital was Alpena General Hospital, it would be difficult to get funding from other municipalities. Hall said years later he received a call from McVeety who said the hospital was changing its name to something more inclusive.

“He told me they changed the name to Alpena Regional Medical Center and he wanted me to sit on the board,” Hall said.

Hall said McVeety also took part in sailing events in the area, including the annual Double Handed Sailing Race that began in Port Huron and ended in Rogers City. He said McVeety was a fine captain.

“He was a dang good sailor and a good man,” Hall said. “He was an extremely good, warm and friendly person and I am in shock at this bad news.”

MidMichigan Medical Center-Alpena Vice President of Human Resources and Support Services Diane Shields worked as vice president of human resources under McVeety. She said he worked hard with state government in order to get the legislature to help the hospital. Shields said his persistence paid off on many occasions.

“He was really a visionary and a good mentor,” she said. “He would get involved in legislative issues that affected small rural hospitals and was sort of our voice in Lansing. He was always thinking about the patients, staff and community.”

Steve Schulwitz can be reached via email at sschulwitz@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5689. Follow Steve on Twitter ss_alpenanews.