Cresson TB Sanatorium Remembered

I received the following email from Esther (Palmer) Lenker on Oct 25, 2009.  Her email address is

Subject: The San 

Hi Charles,

Today, I read your story in the Harrisburg Patriot Newpaper.  It brought back a flood of memories for me.  In 1963 my husband and I were pastoring a church in Michigan, when a medical check-up revealed that my 31 year old husband, Ralph Palmer, had TB.  The state of Michigan notified us that we had three days to either make arrangements to get back to our home state of Pa. and Ralph be hospitalized, or he  would be sent to a 'san' in the state we were in.  After much prayer and investigation we learned that Cresson would be willing to admit Ralph.  We quickly loaded our three small children in our car and drove over night to Cresson.  We arrived at the hospital on a snowy morning in March.  Our 3 children and I had already been tested by the state of Michigan and found to be free of TB.  Fortunately Cresson was only 20 mile from my family home and the children and I were able to live with my parents for the 9 months Ralph was being treated.  Our Michigan congregation was met by the Mich. Health Department on the first Sunday after our departure and everyone was skin tested for tuberculosis.

The care was excellent. Ralph had a private room, and I was able to visit him on a daily basis.  Our children did not see their dad for 6 months after his admission.  After six months of treatment with medication, Ralph had surgery to remove a cavity from the upper right lobe of his lung.  After three months of recovery he was discharged.  After a time of recovery at home, we returned to a pastoral position in Ohio.  In 1974 Ralph died with a heart attack and complications from diabetes.  

When the Cresson facility transitioned to a mental health facility, my uncle spent several years as a patient.  My family has many memories, some good and some sad, of the Cresson facility.  I have always been fascinated with the beauty of the location and thankful that my family lived close enough to be able to visit our loved ones who spent time at the facility.

Thanks for your story and giving many of us an opportunity to share our story.      

Esther (Palmer) Lenker



I received the following additional information and photos from Esther on March 25, 2010.
(Left)  Ralph Palmer prior to admission to the san.
(Right)  Family photo following Ralph's discharge from the san. 
Back Row:  Ralph Sr., Ralph Jr. & Esther. 
Front Row:  Rhonda, their dog Cammy & Tammy. 
Ralph had lung surgery in this building.

Ralph lost weight when he was at Cresson, but soon returned to good health once he knew the very stressful experience was behind him. Our children only have very limited memory of what dad went through and I am thankful for that. The memories are still very real to me. However, I am very thankful that Ralph's story ended very different than many who were sent to the "san."


The children were in awe when they saw their dad on his first visit home after being gone for six months.   I don't think our youngest daughter remembered her dad.  We didn't have all the electronic equipment in 1963 to help little ones remember a parent who is absent for a lengthy period of time. 1963 was a difficult year but one where I saw God's hand at work as He walked us through some of the most difficult days of our lives.

I am sorry I don't have pictures to send you of my sister's wedding that took place while Ralph was hospitalized. We, the wedding party, paid a visit to him. He was permitted to walk outside in his pajamas and bathrobe to greet us.

Thanks again for the renewed connection you have given us to Cresson and permitting us to hear your story and that of others who have had similar experiences.