J. Frances Coakley, 95, nurse who cared for Catholic clergy

September 15, 1999|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

J. Frances Coakley, a retired registered nurse and longtime Catonsville resident, died Sunday of a heart attack at St. Agnes HealthCare. She was 95.

In a nursing career that spanned nearly 50 years, Miss Coakley had been head nurse of St. Joseph's Hall at Bon Secours Hospital in West Baltimore during the 1940s and 1950s, and a much sought after private-duty nurse, especially by the clergy of the Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore.

"Cardinals, monseigneurs, bishops, and parish priests, she took care of all of them," said Nora Coakley Reiter, a niece with whom she lived in Catonsville. "Cardinal Lawrence Shehan would not check into Bon Secours unless she was going to be available to take care of him."

"She certainly loved the Roman collar," said Mrs. Reiter with a laugh. "She was known for her fast smile and caring demeanor and she could never do enough for you. That's what made her a good nurse."

"She was a very handsome Irish woman and a grand lady," said the Rev. Michael J. Roach, pastor of St. Bartholomew Roman Catholic Church in Manchester.

For years, Miss Coakley and her Plymouth Fury were a familiar sight in hospital parking lots and at homes of her patients.

She was born and raised in the gatehouse at Spring Grove Hospital Center, where her father was gatekeeper for many years. She graduated in 1922 from Mount de Sales Academy and earned her bachelor's degree in nursing from the Mercy Hospital School of Nursing in 1927.

She began working as a private-duty nurse and then abandoned her career for 17 years to care for her ill father, resuming her career after his death.

After retiring in the 1970s, Miss Coakley enjoyed traveling and was in her early 80s when she toured Ireland solo. A devout Catholic, she attended Mass every day at St. Mark Roman Catholic Church, 27 Melvin Ave., Catonsville, where a Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 10: 30 a.m. tomorrow.

In addition to her niece, she is survived by three nephews and five other nieces.

Pub Date: 9/15/99

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