“Looking back through my life, I feel that initially much of the source of the strength that I have came from the women who have been in my life, especially those on my mother’s side of the family. They were tough, Yankee women, who broke a lot of the social mores of their time by working at a time when no women worked. This was a time when they all got married and stayed home. My Great Aunt Sue, in particular, worked for votes for women and also worked as an accountant. My mother was a tireless volunteer and advocate for those with disabilities.
I think that these women shaped me by being role models. Following their lead, I put myself through nursing school and worked for 35 years as a nurse. The strength to do that has come from people I cared for, always working where the need was greatest, first at Booth Maternity Hospital run by the Salvation Army. I then came into my own at the start of the AIDS epidemic by taking care of HIV/AIDS patients who were hospitalized. This was at a time when every day was a new medical discovery, but the reality was that my patients came in on Friday and died by Monday. My strength grew with my knowledge and as an equal on a team of doctors, pharmacists, social workers, and nurses. I obtained my Masters in Adult Health and Chronic Illness with Board Certification in HIV/AIDS. Working for the PA AIDS Education and Training Center, I used that knowledge and strength to develop a training program for doctors, nurses, and dentists. Later I was part of a team that opened BETAK, a skilled nursing home for persons with AIDS; also working there part- time. The thousands of patients who died with AIDS, and later, those persons I care for on hospice, indelibly printed themselves on my soul. Their stories, their strengths, and even their fears have taught ME how to find my own strength and to make sure each day is lived to its fullest.”