The family of former Illinois Valley resident Michelle Mertel Nuckles recently established a health care scholarship in her memory with the Illinois Valley Community College Foundation.
Nuckles died in March 2017 at age 36 following complications from a spinal cord injury in September 2015 near her home in Charlotte, N.C. A rope swing accident left her on a ventilator and a quadriplegic.
After a monthlong stay at Carolina Medical Center, she was flown to receive care at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. After a month in Illinois, the young mother returned to Charlotte.
“Much of the care she received was in the form of physical, occupational and speech therapy, which she so looked forward to,” said her mother, Sue Mertel, of Utica, a former longtime IVCC employee.
“Our goal is to provide a scholarship for students pursuing careers in physical, occupational or speech therapy or doing medical research to one day find a cure for spinal cord injuries,” she said.
Sue Mertel, with her husband, Michael, and daughter, Meghan Ambolo, of Chicago (Michelle’s sister), are sponsors of the $1,000 annual Michelle Mertel Nuckles Scholarship. Michelle was born May 27, 1980, raised in the Illinois Valley and attended Ottawa High School.
In 2012, she moved with her husband, Marcus, to Charlotte, N.C., where she worked in human resources at Chiquita before becoming a stay-at-home mom for her son, Hunter, now 5.
“The poise and dignity the Mertel and Nuckles families have demonstrated in the face of this heart-wrenching tragedy is extraordinary,” said IVCC President Jerry Corcoran. “Through this scholarship, Michelle’s courage and passion for life will live on.”