Gerry Nolan was born on April 28, 1921 at the family farm in Aryshire, Iowa the second of seven children born to Anna Duffy and Edward Nolen. Farm life was hard but Gerry remembers fondly when Roosevelt (FDR) passed the Rural Electrification Act bringing modern conveniences such as refrigeration and lights to rural America.
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In high school Gerry would go to the diner in nearby Emmetsburg with her best friend Ellen. For 35 cents they could purchase mashed potatoes, meat and a vegetable (Gerry always pronounced vegetable with 4 syllables not 3!). A cup of soup could be added for 5 cents.
After high school in 1939 women had three choices: get married, become a nurse or a teacher. Gerry chose nursing. She took a train without any conveniences (toilets) to St. Anthony’s nursing school in Rock Island, Illinois. The students lived in dorms and learned on the job working long hours. She stayed on at St. Anthony’s for one year after nursing school. That year involved working 12-hour nights for 6 days per week. The pay? $60 per week. She saw a flier to work for the Veteran’s Association and it was more than double the pay so she applied and was hired.
Her first job as a VA nurse was in Des Moines. Sister Mary lived there so that was a bonus. After about a year she moved to Fort Bard, New Mexico (close to Silver City in the SW corner of the state) to work at a TB hospital up in the mountains with 225 beds. It was isolated to keep the general public safe. The chief nurse there, Catherine McDonough, didn’t think NM was a good place for a young single nurse like Gerry so she convinced her to come to work in Los Angeles in the Valley. Housing was scarce at this time as the soldiers were coming back from WWII so Gerry lived with Catherine. Gerry got hired by Mrs. Cahill in Van Nuys at a big 1000 bed VA hospital (converted Naval hospital). It was hot out there. She worked there for 3 years.
From Los Angeles she moved to Vancouver, Washington with another nurse named Claudette Basler. She worked here for 3 years.
At this time there was an opening in Minneapolis. She had been gone from home for approximately 10 years (4 years of training and 6 years of working). Her parents were getting older and her dad’s health was failing. She took 6 months off of work and cared for her dad until his death. Her mom stayed in Iowa until stroked and then Gerry brought her up to Minneapolis to care for her for approximately 8 years until she died. While in Minneapolis Gerry saw a brochure for Nurse Anesthetist training. She saw the pay and thought, “Well, I might as well do that!” Gerry took 2 years off to do the training which was grueling. She had paid room and board and was trained on the job working 24/7 365. Upon graduation there were no openings so she took her first Nurse Anesthetist job in Cleveland, Ohio. She stayed there for 3 years and “didn’t like Cleveland at all.” As soon as there was an opening in Minneapolis, she came back and never left. Except for the 15 years she managed the trailer park her brother Raymond owned in Big Lake, Alaska. She returned in 2004.
Gerry loved traveling. She traveled all over the world and to all but one state, Delaware. When asked if she wanted to take a quick trip to Delaware just to have the 50 states covered she replied, “Why would I want to go to Delaware? There’s nothing there!”. Gerry loved sweets – especially caramel sundaes. She was a marvelous conversationalist and a witty companion. She was interested in others and had many questions for new people she met. Gerry loved her nieces and nephews and their children. She tried to keep up with their every day events up until the last week of her life. She had a period of time where she was able to use the internet to look up the price of beans and corn. She also had some limited success with the cell phone. She NEVER had a credit card. She was loved by many and a very good friend, especially with Laura and Julius Nolen. The Nolan family lived out of state so she spent a lot of time with the Nolen family in her last 14 years of life. She will be sorely missed by many.
Gerry passed away on July 6, 2019 after 18 months of setbacks and recoveries with her health. She was one feisty 98 years old.
Preceded in death by her 6 siblings, Raymond Nolan, Mary Gill, Charles Nolan, Bob Nolan, Gertrude Larick, and James Nolan
Survived by nieces and nephews, Bill (Laura Downing) Larick, Bob (Sheila Schultz) Larick, Paula Larick-Ferngle, David (Dawn) Nolan, and Holly (Malcolm) Fleming; great nieces and nephews, Chelsea & Carrie Downing-Larick, Reyghan Schultz-Larick, Dallas, Autumn, Madison & Sean Nolan, and Jack & Cole Fleming.
Mass of Christian Burial, Friday, July 12th Holy Family Catholic Church, 2003 Broadway St, Emmetsburg, IA 50536. 10:30 a.m. Visitation Thursday 5-7 p.m. at Joyce Funeral Home, 2302 23rd St, Emmetsburg, IA 50536