by Vickie Jenkins
I had the privilege of interviewing some wonderful ladies that were celebrating their 45th anniversary of receiving their caps. What an exciting time for these 8 women that reunited at Integris Baptist Medical Center. It was the summer of 1968 when these women were accepted into Baptist Memorial Hospital School of Nursing. They all lived in the dorm on the hospital campus except the ones that were married.
At the time, it was a diploma nursing program and their class was small because Baptist was phasing out the school which was then morphed into the nursing program at Central State College (now, University of Central Oklahoma). In the summer of 1969, the 12 nurses were sent to St. Louis, Missouri State Mental Hospital for their psychiatric training. They graduated on June 5, 1970.
Interviewing the women that gathered for the reunion was a pure delight. The conference room at Baptist Hospital was full of hugs, smiles and laughter as each woman shared memories. “It was Dr. John Donnell, a cardiologist that gave us 12 nurses the nickname of The Dirty Dozen,” one woman said. Since then, The Dirty Dozen have held major reunions every five years, getting together whenever possible. In addition to reunions, they also stay in contact by Facebook, email and texts. A few send cards and letters.
After some fun and fellowship, here are some interesting answers from outstanding women telling us what their life is like now.
Melanie Arnold Hemry, RN-“Why did you become a nurse?” “I felt it was a wonderful career and a great way to serve others. It ended up giving me great features for my writing.” Hemry is now a freelance writer and has written for Guideposts and other magazines. She has written more than 50 books.
Laura Bliss Denwood, RN- Describing herself in three words, she says, “Friendly, empathetic and optimistic.” Denwood traveled from St. Croix, Virgin Islands, where she still lives. She is happy to see all of her friends again plus enjoyed taking a tour of Baptist Medical Center.
Janet Pomplun Jamison, RN, Clinical Research Nurse- “What is your favorite memory from the past while working at Baptist Hospital?” “There was a supportive nursing staff and several mentors. The progressive acute care experiences were great.” Jamison worked in Cancer Research at Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington, DC before working at the National Institute of Health and the Food and Drug Administration. She resides in. Delaware.
Beverly Botchhlet, RN, MS-“What was your favorite thing about the reunion today?” “Being a member of a group who are totally nonjudgmental and have only love and support for each other.” Bachlet became a nurse in 1970 and is still going strong. Bachlet earned her Master’s Degree and continues to teach nursing.
Connie Blackburn Furrh, RN-“What is your life like now?” “I work with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and work full-time at Oklahoma Spine Hospital.” “Do you stay in contact with the other nurses?” “Absolutely. I consider them my sisters. Time melts away when we come back together again.” Blackburn also helped build the Renaissance Women’s Centers.
Lou Berry, RN-“Describe yourself in three words.” ‘Full of energy!” Berry said her favorite memory of the past is working in the Surgery Center. She spent years teaching nursing.
Lenora Schoenhals Bechwith, RN-“What is your life like now?” “I’m a retired Hospice nurse, mother of two and grandmother of two. I go to Hospice Circle of Love, Enid, OK when needed. Bechwith says she was four years old when she received a nurse kit from her cousin one Christmas morning.
Linda Gossman Hazard, RN- “What is your life like now?” “I am retired and life is good!” Jackson worked at OU Health Science Center in NICU.
Unable to attend the 45 year reunion were Terry Thurston, Norma Aycock Williams, RN, Carol Neal, RN. Evannah Esadoah, RN (deceased)
After catching up on just a glimpse of the past years, the women planned on taking a tour of Integris Baptist Medical Center. A big thank-you to these fine women that have given their time and dedication to helping others provide and coordinate patient care, educate patients and the public about various health conditions, and provide advice and emotional support.
Perhaps, one of the women at the reunion summed up the countless hours of nursing the best. “When did you become a nurse?” I asked. she answered, “1970”. “When did your nursing end?” I asked. “Never!” she replied. I am sure The Dirty Dozen will meet again.