The Ottumwa Courier

Local News

July 21, 2013

St. Joe nurses reunite, look back on days at school

OTTUMWA — One hundred St. Joseph Hospital nurses were reunited once again.

From the time St. Joe's opened in 1917 until it closed in 1971, 702 nurses graduated from the hospital. Saturday night, those who were able returned to Hotel Ottumwa to see old friends and classmates.

"We looked back and 1946 was the earliest [class] we invited because the rest were deceased, too far away or they couldn't get here," said Vera Vandello, planning committee member and a graduate of the class of 1967.

Five graduates from the class of 1946 made it to the reunion Saturday night: Darlene Glassner, Dorothy Green, Mary Jane Patrick, Regina Harness and Catherine Millane.

Glassner said "it's almost unbelievable" that her class was the earliest at Saturday's reunion.

"I was very disturbed when I found out they were going to tear the hospital down," she said. "There are a lot of memories there."

Vandello said this year's reunion takes on a special meaning since St. Joe's is slated for demolition.

"It's of interest to see what state it's in," said Sister Marie Vittetoe. "It's all fenced off. It looks like it's in a state of degradation."

But spirits were high as the 100 nursing graduates shuffled into the ballroom for dinner.

Glassner hopes the reunions will continue, even though the youngest graduates are now in their 60s.

"As long as some of us are left, I think we should keep having them," she said.

Sister Vittetoe -- nurses may recall her as Sister Mary Bernard back in the day -- taught chemistry and microbiology from 1950 up until the school closed. After leaving the school, she went on to graduate school and "never came back" to Ottumwa to work, though she enjoys coming back to the reunions.

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