Editorial: Nurse Honor Guard has worthy mission

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 30, 2022

As we were wrapping up the weekend edition of The Ironton Tribune on Friday, we were saddened to hear of the passing of Maria Oakes, of Ironton, who died Thursday at the age of 74.

Oakes first visited The Tribune last spring, shortly after the Ironton-Lawrence County Memorial Day Parade, which had featured a float from a group that was dear to her heart — the Nurse Honor Guard of the River Cities.

She co-founded the nonprofit in 2019 with Dorothy Spillman and served as its chair. Since its launch, the group had made the trip to funerals across the Tri-State, honoring those who had served in the profession of nursing and reading the Nightingale Tribute in their honor.

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When we ran stories on the group throughout the past year, readers weighed in, expressing how meaningful and moving the honor was in their time of loss and they appreciated having their loved ones’ life of work commemorated.

With pandemic restrictions easing last year, the group began to make many public appearances, such as the parade, as well as the dedication of two Civil War era graves in Ironton for black Union soldiers, where they laid a wreath.

And the sight of the group’s members, who now number in the dozens, in public allowed the Nurse Honor Guard to not just pay tribute to those who passed, but to also remind people of the value of those currently in nursing and the care they provide.

As a final request, Oakes asked those who are currently in nursing or retired to consider joining the group. It is a worthy mission, and we concur and pass that wish on.

And those who would like to support the Nurse Honor Guard in their continuing mission can visit the group at their Facebook page for more information, or contact them at P.O. Box 921, Ashland, Ky., 41105.

In addition to co-founding the NHRC, Oakes had a long career in nursing, touching many lives, serving at Cabell Huntington Hospital’s NICU for 26 years, Ohio State University Hospital, Ironton General and at King’s Daughters Medical Center, where she helped open the first coronary intensive care unit, as well as a special care unit for newborns, the first in the Tri-State, where she served as nurse manager.

We would like to remember her with the same tribute she used to honor so many:

“When a calming, quiet presence was all that was needed, Maria was there.

In the excitement and miracle of birth or in the mystery and loss of life, Maria was there.

(…) To witness humanity—its beauty, in good times and bad, without judgment, Maria was there.

To embrace the woes of the world, willingly, and offer hope, Maria was there

And now, that it is time to be at the Greater One’s side, Maria is there.”