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Thursday, April 16, 2015

Chief Nurse Grace Phelps Writes of Norene Royer's Death to Her Mother, Part I: "I Will Miss Her Songs"

On September 18, 1918, the day after Base Hospital 46 Nurse Norene Royer's death, Chief Nurse Grace Phelps wrote to Royer's mother, Sarah Agnes Royer, who lived in Snoqualmie Falls, Washington. The letter, part of the Grace Phelps Collection at Historical Collections & Archives at Oregon Health & Science University tells us as much about Phelps as it does about Norene Royer. (Grace Phelps to Sarah Agnes Royer, September 18, 1918, Box 1, Folder 1, Grace Phelps Papers, Historical Collections & Archives, Oregon Health & Science University).

Chief Nurse Grace Phelps, R.N., Oregonian, March 17, 1918, Section 1, p. 14.
Norene Royer, R. N.
Box 1, Folder 8, Grace Phelps Papers, Historical Collections & Archives, Oregon Health & Science University. Courtesy Historical Collections & Archives, OHSU.
"You will find enclosed your letters to Norene, which were received, but which she never read," Phelps began. "I wish I had some way of telling you without bluntly writing," about the death of "your dear child." An official telegram had been sent, but Phelps wanted to take time to share some things with Sarah Royer about her daughter.

Phelps assured Sarah Royer that "everything possible that the doctors and nurses could do was done for her" and that she had made a "brave fight to live." Norene "seemed to know that she was going as she said when she was first taken sick that she did not believe that she would get well."

Phelps also wanted give Sarah Royer some comfort with the thought that Norene had someone close to her in the difficult and intimate days of her last illness. "Miss Berg who has been her very good friend was with her as one of her special nurses and of course, will write to you very soon."
Anna Berg, R.N.
Grace Phelps Papers, Box 3, Binder 5, Base Hospital 46 Staff Files, Historical Collections & Archives, Oregon Health & Science University. Courtesy Historical Collections & Archives, OHSU.
Phelps shared information with Agnes Royer about Norene's success as a nurse and colleague at Base Hospital 46. This might help Royer with her grief, but it also told of Phelps's own feelings for the nurse with whom she had worked and her admiration for her work. "We will all miss her so much" she wrote. "The men because she was nice to them and such a good nurse, doing the thing to be done in a sisterly way and the nurses because she was one of them and they loved her. She roomed next door to me and I will miss her songs, for she was always singing and seemed very happy."

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