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Frank R. Howard Foundation History


The quest to establish a hospital in Northern Mendocino County began as a result of a heartbreaking accident. Frank R. Howard was critically injured in an auto accident on his father’s ranch just outside Willits. Without immediate, close-by emergency care, tragically, the young man succumbed to his injuries. Young Frank’s father, a successful auto distributor and owner of the champion race horse Seabiscuit, Charles Howard, along with the support of Dr. Raymond Babcock and a group of citizens, devised a plan to build a hospital in memory of Howard’s son. Believing that Frank would have survived the accident if a hospital had been in operation close by, the elder Howard pushed for construction to begin. Groundbreaking ceremonies were held during the 1927 Willits Frontier Days, a local rodeo celebration that continues today. The Frank R. Howard Memorial Hospital has been in operation since 1928.


The Frank R. Howard Foundation was established in 1987 as the owner of the hospital facility with the objective of guaranteeing high-quality hospital services for Willits and Northern Mendocino County.


In a 2008 nationwide survey of health care facilities Frank R. Howard Memorial Hospital ranked among the top 10 percent in patient care. The hospital facility is currently managed by Adventist Health whose local staff has worked tirelessly in order to make this achievement possible.


The Northridge earthquake of 1994 generated a great deal of attention regarding the seismic safety for all acute-care hospitals in California leading to new safety requirements. Frank R. Howard Memorial Hospital’s (HMH) 80 year-old existing facility

was unable to meet current seismic standards, specifically SB 1953. After an extensive evaluation of the best avenue to pursue, the Frank R. Howard Foundation Board of Directors agreed that retrofitting the current facility would generate an unacceptable interruption in services and would not address the fact that the current facility is too small for all the medical services now being provided. Therefore, the decision was made to construct the Frank R. Howard Foundation Medical Campus that would include the new Frank R. Howard Memorial Hospital, the Jann Lamprich medical office building, with future development to include the William Bowen Auditorium, Campus Housing,  and Healthcare Campus.


Willits bore the economic brunt of California’s efforts to protect the environment twenty years ago. With a local economy based primarily on logging, an industry that all but collapsed, local residents have faced the challenge of finding new employment in a community with a very limited industrial base. There are no major corporations located here. However, Willits has a strong entrepreneurial history with many solar and other “green” companies being founded in the area. Major employers are service industries including the hospital, the school district and local government.


In addition to an excellent level of healthcare, HMH has demonstrated its role as a major employer in the Willits area. It is recognized as an economic engine creating additional jobs and educational opportunities. The number of new employees has risen 38% over the last ten years. In 2008, HMH employed and contracted 259 people and paid over $16 million in payroll and professional fees to local residents. The new Frank R. Howard Memorial Hospital & Healthcare Campus will not only preserve these existing jobs, but will also attract additional businesses needed to support the new facility.


The hospital is well known for its strength in orthopedics due to the visionary and passionate work of Dr. William Bowen. Dr. Bowen has enticed other talented and much needed medical specialists to service the area, guaranteeing the residents of this rural area access to excellent healthcare. The new hospital will help this recruitment effort and act as a magnet for related industries such as manufacturers of prosthetic devices used by the Orthopedic Joint Center of Northern California surgeons. This will increase the number of skilled-labor employment opportunities for local residents. The resulting influx of new people connected with hospital operations, including families with children, will help reverse a twenty year local, economic downturn.


A new and separate public foundation, the Howard Community Healthcare Foundation (HCHF), was established as a non-profit 501(c)3 in 2005 to benefit Capital Campaign donors. The mission of the HCHF is to advance excellence in healthcare, education, and research through philanthropy. Its primary focus is the receiving of funds raised for the new hospital facility. These funds are separate from the general operating budget of the Frank R. Howard Memorial Hospital and the Frank R. Howard Foundation. The HCHF is the fund-receiving arm for the new facility.


Combined with the economic benefits, the new hospital will accomplish three primary goals (as of October, 2015, it has accomplished these goals):

  • A new facility allowing the new Frank R. Howard Memorial Hospital to function in compliance with SB1953 and OSHPD (Office of Statewide Health Planning & Development) requirements.

  • A current, modern hospital/healthcare campus that provides needed technology for the growing arena of electronic medicine, space for the Jeffery Smith Memorial Helipad located next to the emergency room, and the development of a medical residency program with UC Davis. The campus will also offer room for an expanded medical library, conference rooms, ancillary services, and the Commonwealth garden that provides fresh, organic produce to hospital patients, staff and visitors.

  • A seamless transition from the current hospital location to the new hospital location without the disruption of services that retrofitting would have entailed.


Frank R. Howard with puppies. This picture hangs in the hall of the hospital to this day.


Charles Howard aboard Seabiscuit

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