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Marseilles Nursing Service celebrates a century of care

Free, donation-sponsored service still makes home visits

Roger Close has regularly visited the Marseilles Nursing Service since around 1997, but it’s been a resource to him for all of his life.

The donation-sponsored service used to send nurses to check in on students at both the grade school and high school, but today they are available for check-ins at their office, 227 Main St., and for home visits.

Close, 76, said most of the injuries he had treated in the past were skinned knees when falling off a merry-go-round.

“It’s been beautiful ever since I’ve been coming,” Close said.

“Ever since I was little, ever since I’ve been in the first grade I’ve seen the Marseilles Nursing Service,” he added.

The Marseilles Nursing Service is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, and a celebration is planned at 1 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 15, at the Seattle Sutton Marseilles Museum, 151 Washington St.

Close stopped in for his regular check-up on Tuesday morning. Blood pressure and blood sugar were checked and he was free to discuss any medical issues he’s experienced lately with the current nurse, Kathy Rosengren.

Today, the service provides in-home visits as needed, blood pressure and blood sugar screenings weekly and also provides a larger number of medical supplies to patients as needed.

A small deposit of less than $5 is requested for supplies such as wheelchairs, walkers, shower chairs and the like, but the other services are offered at no charge as the program is supported by donations from the community.

Rosengren is the 43rd nurse to join the service and started three years ago.

“Marseilles is such a close-knit community and you have to be to have supported this and have the forethought of just paying out of their pocket to care for each other,” Rosengren said. “Even though the people who donate don’t need our service, they know that others might need the service so they continue to go out of their way to keep this in Marseilles for 100 years, which is amazing.”

Rosengren made a home visit to Christine Cochran, 76, following Close’s appointment.

She regularly checks on Cochran and ensures she’s well taken care of when living at home.

“(Rosengren) is a very good person. She can come anytime she wants to, she knows that,” Cochran said with a smile.

“It’s more like a friend, she’s more like a neighbor,” Cochran said of Rosengren’s service.

Cochran's daughter, Donna Morris, stopped over when Rosengren was there and noted the service also brings a great deal of peace of mind to the family.

Sometimes, in a pinch, Morris has texted Rosengren.

“It’s comforting because (Cochran) is home,” Morris said. “If it wasn’t for the way this was set up or me (living nearby), I don’t know.”

“It’s also nice to have a visitor coming through too,” she added.

Rosengren said she’s had prior experience working in a doctor’s office, nursing home and hospitals that have prepared her for the role of being a figure in the community some have come to rely on.

She’s also undergone her own family’s medical issues, including her own father’s illness and death from cancer.

“Through that, I learned how horrible it is to be in that situation and how another set of hands means the world,” Rosengren said.

She’s spent time with patients on hospice while they died and family couldn’t be there and she’s called 911 and made hospital visits as well.

Their work also complements other medical visits and sometimes can be used in collaboration with regular check-ups outside of the community.

Rosengren recalled one nurse practitioner's surprise the service made home visits possible while not having to travel to Peru as frequently.

“She called and said, ‘Is this for real?’ and I said, ‘Yes, believe it or not, it’s real, this town has set up this service for people in Marseilles,’ ” Rosengren said.

The service has been donation-supported since 1919 and the current business manager Carol Downey said it costs around $30,000 to operate per year.

Downey said the community is generous in supporting the service and donations often come in the form of money either delivered or mailed to the office or as a part of memorial services. In one case, Rosengren recalled that Marseilles Sheet Metal donated a furnace.

Rosengren said it’s incredible the service has held around as long as it has in Marseilles but it’s also a sign of the supporting community working together to offer something that’s long left other communities.

“It’s amazing because it’s such a caring community and to be a part of that is nice,” Rosengren said. “I’m honored to be a part of that.”

It all started with $3,000

In 1919, after World War I, Marseilles was left with $3,000 in its American Red Cross funds and were able to either give the money back or establish a nursing service, according to Marseilles Nursing Service records.

The service was established and its first office was above the First National Bank on Main Street. Mary Cronin became the first nurse and served from September 1919 until August 1923, with most of her traveling being done on foot as a vehicle wasn’t donated until the Commercial Club of Marseilles donated one in the 1920s.

Early in the service’s use, they combated a flu epidemic in both 1919 and 1920 prior to a pink eye epidemic in the schools a year later. A dental program was also established wherein “surprise drills” were made and students were asked to take their “spare toothbrush” and go through the motions of cleaning their teeth.

The Marseilles Nursing Service also dealt with a dysentery epidemic in 1928 when the Illinois State Health Department found the drinking water to be unsafe. Everyone in the city was then inoculated for typhoid fever, as well as outbreaks of pneumonia, influenza and scarlet fever.

Another epidemic of measles, pneumonia and the flu arose in 1938. Despite this, the Marseilles Nursing Service notes the health of children was improving. An example was provided that of a group of preschoolers only one child was considered overweight and one considered underweight.

More information on the history of the Marseilles Nursing Service will be provided during a celebration at 1 p.m. Sunday at the Seattle Sutton Marseilles Museum.

Marseilles Nursing Service nurses over the years

Mary Cronin, 1919-1923.

Clara Stevens, 1923-1924.

Bertha Sundal, 1924-1925.

Abbie Tabor, 1925.

Bertha Rosendalh, 1925-1926.

Verna Hirsh, 1926-1927.

M.J. Bandert, 1927.

Blanch Japerson, 1927-1929.

Ann Caves, 1929-1936.

Florence Wiley, 1931.

Gladys Repke, 1932, 1949-1964.

Emily Wohlgemuth, 1936-1937.

Roma Singer, 1936-1938.

Evalina Reed, 1936-1940.

Florence Telfer, 1936-1938.

Margaret Hassley, 1940-1944.

Pearl Kramer, 1944-1949.

Frances Frackowiak, 1948.

Florence Pomatto, 1949-1950.

Dorothy Fifield, 1950.

Melva Allender, 1950-1952.

Ruth Pellino, 1950-1959.

Agnes Muffler, 1952-1954.

Emma Reavy, 1954-1959.

Elsie Caldwell, 1959-1972.

Laura Roalson, 1962-1973.

Pearl Kissane, 1964-1965.

Adeline Spencer, 1965-1966.

Lorraine Henry, 1965-1967.

Martha Corrigan, 1960-1969.

Nancy Trad, 1970-1978.

Mary Ann Stremlau, 1973-1990.

Sandra Trager, 1978-1990.

Carol Craig, 1990-1994, 2008-2013.

Paula Thompson, 1990.

Debra Lang, 1994-2005.

Julie Hogue, 1996.

Yvonne Grove, 1996.

Rosina Goodchild, 2005-2006.

Mary Nevins, 2006.

Julie Watts, 2006-2008.

Lori Munson, 2003-2016.

Kathy Rosengren, 2016 - present.

Marseilles Nursing Service secretaries

Evelyn Youmans, 1967-1968.

Jeanne Micheletti, 1968-1969.

Joan Page, 1969-1996.

Ruth Close, 1996-1998.

Becky Tabor, 1998-2011.

Carol Downey, 2011 - present.

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