Sister Mary Naomi, 75, director of Mercy Medical nursing school

October 13, 2002|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

Sister Mary Naomi, a former director of Mercy Medical Center's nursing school, died Thursday of complications of cancer at the downtown institution.

She was 75 and lived in her order's retirement home in the Pinehurst section of Baltimore County.

Born Marian Zerhusen in Baltimore, she was raised in Annapolis, where she attended St. Mary's School. She graduated from Notre Dame of Maryland, now Notre Dame Preparatory School, in 1945.

In later years, she often spoke of how during a snowstorm in the 1940s, she was the only student to show up for classes, and that she had the farthest distance to travel - on the old Baltimore & Annapolis Railroad.

She earned a nursing degree from Mount St. Agnes College in Mount Washington and a master's degree in pediatric nursing from Catholic University of America in Washington.

She also obtained a second master's degree in public health from the Johns Hopkins University.

"She was a determined person," said Sister Mary Thomas Zinkand, Mercy's president emeritus. "If she knew something to be right, you could not change her mind. She would hold on to it."

Sister Mary Naomi worked as a nurse at Mercy Hospital for seven years before she joined the Sisters of Mercy in 1957.

She spent most of her career in the Baltimore area. For two years, she worked at an Atlanta hospital run by her order.

In Baltimore, after teaching at the hospital from 1959 to 1961, she became its associate director of nursing and director of its nursing school, where she ran a program for about 160 students in the 1960s and early 1970s.

After a year as Mercy's intensive care unit's head nurse, she worked on public health issues in South Baltimore, where her order established an outreach center about 30 years ago.

Sister Mary Naomi became interested in medical issues concerning the elderly and joined the staff of Stella Maris Hospice in Timonium. For 11 years, she interviewed prospective residents who were considering assisted living.

For her last 12 years of active work - from 1988 to 2000 - she returned to Mercy Medical Center and counseled patients who were about to undergo surgery.

"She made such a good impression with patients. They would come back and ask for her," Sister Mary Thomas recalled. "She would sit and pray the Our Father with families of patients undergoing surgery, then stay with them in the waiting room. She just had a positive way with people."

Sister Elizabeth Anne Corcoran, a fellow Sister of Mercy, said, "She had a kindness that appealed to the patients. She could communicate spiritual aspects to those going into surgery."

Friends said Sister Mary Naomi went driving for relaxation. She often took fellow sisters - those who did not drive - out on trips. She also liked outlet shopping.

She is survived by two brothers, Monsignor Henry F. Zerhusen, a retired Baltimore pastor, and Clarence "Bo" Zerhusen, both of Timonium; two nephews; two nieces; and 10 grandnieces and grandnephews.

A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 1 p.m. tomorrow at Stella Maris Hospice, 2300 Dulaney Valley Road, Timonium.

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