Her work as medical staff services director was critical to keeping operations running smoothly.
Thousands of doctors who worked at United Hospital in St. Paul were touched by the work of Eleanor Waldrup. She wasn't the chief of surgery or a big donor, but her job had a critical impact.
For 30 years, the former legal secretary was the hospital's medical staff services director, responsible for taking care of all the credentials, certifications and licenses for each doctor. Dr. Dan Foley, United Hospital's medical director, joked that it took four or five people to replace Waldrup when she retired in 2000.
"She was an institution," he said.
Waldrup, 85, died Friday at United from complications of a stroke.
She was born in Minneapolis and graduated from Edison High School. She was divorced at age 44 and needed a full-time job, so she boarded a bus to City Hall in St. Paul to apply for a government job.
Along the way, she passed St. Luke's Hospital, which would later merge with another hospital to become United. Having worked at St. Luke's before, she decided to see if there were any jobs there. She was hired for an administrative position, and the rest is history, said her son-in-law Dan Miller of Chicago. She had no college education, but amazing penmanship and a deep care for the people who worked with her, he said.
What kept Waldrup up at night was the runup to the annual meeting at which the hospital's accreditation committee reviewed her work on credentials and certifications. She never failed, Miller said.
When she started the job, Waldrup had to worry about maybe 100 doctors, but the number was more than 1,000 when she retired, Foley said.
"It's incredibly complex stuff, looking at doctors' training, licensing, board information. This is the stuff the medical staff needs to know to base their decision on what doctors can do at the hospital," he said.
Waldrup worked for Foley for 12 years, and he said he relied on her every day. Waldrup learned on the job as it became more regulated and helped train others, he said.
"She knew every doctor because she had to go through their files, but she had a personal touch with them all," he said. "We're all going to miss her."
When Waldrup retired, the doctors told her they would pay for any trip. Miller and his wife, Waldrup's daughter, were already planning a trip to southeast Asia, and that was the trip she picked.
After she retired, she continued to volunteer at the hospital.
Waldrup told family that all the medical staff records fit "nicely into two file drawers" when she started the job. By the time she retired, all the files filled a whole room.
She enjoyed books and writing, music, theater and sporting events. She was a member of Christ Episcopal Church and St. Mary's Episcopal Church in St. Paul.
She is survived by four daughters, Michele Miller of Chicago, Julianne King of Minneapolis, Donna Strom of St. Paul and Karen Moss of Mendota Heights, and two sons, Timothy King of Brooklyn Park and Keith Waldrup of Phoenix. A memorial service was held Monday.
David Chanen • 612-673-4465