A Nurse's TributeSeptember 20, 2019
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Story by Olivia Ingle
Photos by Sarah Ann Jump
When the Nursing Honor Guard formed at Memorial Hospital and Health Care Center, it’s nurses like Linda (Vogler) Giesler who they had in mind.
Linda had a 25-year nursing career, working at Huntingburg’s former St. Joseph’s Hospital and then at Memorial. She was kind, honest, blunt and straight-forward. She had a take-charge personality. Fellow nurses called her “The Wire” because she had so much energy.
Linda died Aug. 30 at 82 years old.
“Whenever we started talking about honor guard, we knew Linda was in the nursing home,” says Susan Martin of Ferdinand, a member of the honor guard who worked with Linda in the emergency department for 20 years.
Susan stood with five other nurses, most who had known Linda personally, all clad in white dresses and nurse caps, all part of the honor guard that performed a ceremony at Linda’s visitation on Sept. 3 at Becher-Kluesner North Chapel in Jasper.
Memorial’s Nursing Honor Guard officially formed in early 2018 after months of planning. The hospital’s Trauma Program director, Vicki Stuffle, had heard about other honor guards in the state, and approached hospital leadership about starting one at the Jasper hospital.
For Vicki, of Odon, the honor guard is a way to honor those who spent years caring for other people.
“My father was in the military, and the graveside rites were so meaningful to me,” Vicki says as to why she felt a calling to form the honor guard.
Memorial’s honor guard — 47 nurses have volunteered to serve on the guard and they rotate months — performs a five- to seven-minute ceremony at nurses’ funerals within 50 miles of the hospital. Typically, the nurse worked at Memorial or St. Joseph’s at some point, although there have been some exceptions.
Earlier this year, the honor guard performed at a funeral for a nurse who hadn’t worked at either hospital, but who lived in the community and worked as a nurse elsewhere.
A nurse for 38 years, Vicki has much respect and love for other nurses. “For a majority of nurses, it’s your whole life,” she says. “It’s not just the work you do. Your whole life is nursing, and it’s recognized as who you are.”
Linda wasn’t a nurse until later in life, although she was always known as a caring and helpful person. One specific event led her to nursing.
The family was traveling home from Evansville and Linda was driving, when a motorcycle hit Linda’s vehicle head-on. The driver of the motorcycle was killed, and the passenger badly hurt.
“That’s what drove her to being a nurse,” says Jayne Baker, Linda’s daughter. “She stayed there with them, covered them up with any blankets, anything she could find. It was a horrific accident that drove her to nursing. I don’t think she ever really got over that.”
Linda earned her nursing degree while raising her and her husband Carl Jr.’s five kids — Mike, 61, who travels; Joe, 59, of Jasper; Jayne, 58, of Odon; Mark, 55, of Michigan; and Jason, 48, who is a nurse at IU Health Bloomington — and helping at the family’s business, Giesler’s Restaurant.
Linda graduated from Vincennes University in 1982. When she began her nursing career, she always worked nights so she could be at home with the kids during the day.
Carl Jr. was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in 2005, and Linda eventually retired from nursing to care for her husband.
“She was proud of that, that she kept him at home,” Jayne said.
After Carl Jr. died in 2011, Linda returned to the hospital part-time as an emergency department greeter. But soon, Jayne says her mother’s mind wasn’t as sharp and she eventually retired for good.
Linda was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease in 2014, which was when she also went into assisted living.
While in assisted living, Linda broke her hip, forcing her to move to the Northwood Retirement Community in Jasper. About three years later, she moved to a nursing home facility in Odon to be closer to Jayne.
“She was the best patient,” Jayne says. “She never complained. It was probably the nursing in her.”
Before the ceremony at Linda’s visitation, the nurses shared stories about Linda with one another. There was one about Linda helping with landscaping for a nurse’s wedding gift. Another involved one of Linda’s patients and an enema, after which all the nurses laughed.
They all recalled Linda lending them a hand whenever needed.
“Linda was the prefect example of what a nurse stands for,” said honor guard member Judy Fairchild-Roberts of Holland, who also worked with Linda. “All of us felt honored to be on this honor guard.”
During the ceremony, Judy read the Nurse’s Prayer. Then, the guard performed the Nightingale Tribute, which was developed by the Kansas State Nurses Association in 2003 to honor deceased nurses. The tribute is in honor of Florence Nightingale, a nurse in the Crimean War in the 1850s who was known for her night rounds during which she carried a lamp and tended to the wounded. She’s now known as the pioneer of modern nursing.
The Nightingale Tribute at Linda’s visitation included guard member Glenda Nugent of Huntingburg reading lines about Linda, and the entire guard finishing the lines by saying, “Linda was there.”
“Linda is not only remembered by her years as a nurse, but by the difference she made during those years by stepping into people’s lives by special moments,” Glenda read. “When a calming, quiet presence was all that was needed…”
“Linda was there.”
A final roll call ended the tribute. Honor guard member Amy Heim of Ireland held a ceramic lamp — another reference to Nightingale — with an electric flame shining brightly.
“Linda Giesler, we honor you this day, and this lamp symbolizes our honor and appreciation for being our colleague,” Glenda read.
“Linda Giesler,” she continued.
There was a pause before another guard member, Jennifer Mendel of Jasper, rang a triangle.
The triangle rang again.
The triangle rang for a final time. The flame was extinguished, and the lamp later given to Linda’s family.
“Linda, we officially release you of your nursing duties.”
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