Bernadette Mary Comeaux, 53, nurse who founded hospital parish program

May 12, 2001|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Bernadette Mary Comeaux, a registered nurse who established the Good Samaritan Hospital Parish Nursing Program and served as its coordinator, died in her sleep of undetermined causes Wednesday at her Homewood residence. She was 53.

Miss Comeaux, who had held nursing positions at the Johns Hopkins Hospital, St. Joseph Medical Center and Staff Builders Inc. during her nearly 30-year career, approached officials at Good Samaritan Hospital several years ago with a novel idea. She wanted to offer outreach and support services to the elderly, shut-ins and sometimes fearful patients through community churches.

"It was a very heartwarming story," said Lawrence Beck, president of Good Samaritan.

"She said, `I have a real passion and vision for this program,' and within two years she had grown the program from its inception to active community involvement with churches, senior centers, adult day care centers, homeless shelters and numerous Baltimore community associations," he said.

"Bernie was a true good Samaritan and a strong ambassador for our services. She did it on the strength of her personality and energy. She had a strong belief in both medicine and religion, and that's what drove her. We will remain committed to her vision," he added.

Mr. Beck called her an "advocate for the people who are left out or who fall between the cracks. She was an exceptional person who has touched tens of thousands of people."

"The best way to describe Bernie is that she brought a lot of spirit-making to decision-making. She always felt that God had called her to do this work," said Chad Dillard, director of communications at the Northeast Baltimore hospital.

As parish nurse coordinator, it was Miss Comeaux's job to recruit, train and coordinate each person who worked in the local church or senior center, directing those in need to the appropriate services offered by the hospital.

A mission statement from Good Samaritan says, "The program may be summarized as a dual approach program. The program seeks to provide wellness and wholeness ministry. The wellness ministry assists the acutely or chronically ill person to reach his or her maximal level of independence and to remain `connected' to his or her church during the period of illness-imposed isolation."

"She felt the love of God was working through her. This was what her life was about. She reflected Christ in her life and service to others," said Kim Jones, a cousin who lives in Overlea.

Recently, Cardinal William H. Keeler, archbishop of Baltimore, expressed an interest in expanding the nondenominational program throughout Baltimore in conjunction with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Faith in Action coalition. "Your reports to our board at Good Samaritan through the years persuaded me that Ms. Comeaux is extraordinarily qualified for leadership in this area," he wrote in a letter to Mr. Beck this year.

Born and raised in Northeast Baltimore, Miss Comeaux was a graduate of Seton High School. In 1969, she earned her bachelor's degree in nursing from St. Joseph Hospital School of Nursing. She earned a second bachelor's degree in 1979 in management and labor relations from the University of Baltimore.

At her death, she was taking master's level courses at St. Mary's Seminary and University in Roland Park.

In 1999, she had been awarded a parish nursing certificate from the Ecumenical Institute of Theology at St. Mary's Seminary and University.

From 1972 to 1976, she was assistant director of nursing at St. Joseph Medical Center and from 1976 to 1977, worked in the law office at Johns Hopkins Hospital. She was assistant director of nursing at Hopkins from 1977 to 1985, responsible for the OB-GYN clinics, high-risk obstetrics complex, an inpatient oncology unit and an inpatient surgical gynecology unit.

She worked at Good Samaritan from 1985 to 1989 as a rotating charge nurse, working with cancer patients in the oncology unit.

Until returning to Good Samaritan in 1999, she was home care case manager for Staff Builders Inc. for 10 years.

She was a cat fancier and enjoyed crafts.

Miss Comeaux was a communicant of St. Thomas Aquinas Roman Catholic Church, 1008 W. 37th St. in Hampden, where a Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 10 a.m. today.

She is survived by her mother, Concetta M. Comeaux of Baltimore; two aunts; and several cousins.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.