A `phenomenal nurse' who was `devoted to kids'

Joanne Pierce

Harbor Tragedy : The Victims

March 09, 2004|By Molly Knight | Molly Knight,SUN STAFF

The call came late last week.

Lisa Pierce, 30, telephoned her parents in Vineland, N.J., to invite them on an overnight trip to Baltimore, where she had agreed at the last minute to attend a conference with a group of women from the New Jersey Institute of Technology.

Joanne and Thomas Pierce seized the opportunity to spend time with the younger of their two daughters, who lives in Lyndhurst, N.J. They drove to Baltimore's Marriott Waterfront Hotel and stayed the night with Lisa, director of student activities at the technical school.

On Saturday morning, the family set out to tour the Inner Harbor. It was not until yesterday that the news reached Vineland, in southern New Jersey: Joanne Pierce, 60, had died in the water taxi accident, shortly after rescue workers pulled her from the cold, choppy water.

Lisa Pierce was rescued and taken to Harbor Hospital, where she remained in critical condition yesterday. Thomas Pierce continues to maintain a vigil by his daughter's bedside.

"He appears to be holding up very well, considering that he still seems to be in a state of shock," said Leroy Thomas, a friend and colleague of Lisa Pierce.

Yesterday, friends and co-workers of Joanne Pierce in Vineland mourned her loss, describing her as a compassionate caregiver throughout her career as a pediatric nurse.

"She was a phenomenal nurse who was devoted to kids," said Sharon Morroni, a pediatric nurse at Newcomb Hospital, where she worked with Pierce for 17 years. "Everybody is shocked that such a tragic event took her away from us."

Joan Breslin, who is also a nurse at Newcomb and is a manager at South Jersey Healthcare, said Pierce loved to order flowers for friends, family members and her patients.

"She must have spent thousands of dollars on them, because she bought them for people on every occasion," said Breslin. "She was extremely generous."

At Pediatric Associates, the Vineland medical practice where Pierce had been office manager for the past two years, employees feel "numb," said Dr. Michael Rosenberg.

"No one has ever heard a bad word said about Joanne," Rosenberg said. "No matter what kind of hell was breaking loose, she kept it under control."

Rosenberg said Joanne and Thomas Pierce, a computer consultant, spent as much time together as possible.

"They were often a package deal," he said.

Students at New Jersey Technical Institute held a vigil yesterday for Lisa Pierce. Packed into a lecture hall, more than 200 people prayed for the blond-haired, blue-eyed young woman, whom they described as friendly and fun-loving.

Leroy Thomas, associate dean of students at the Newark-based school, said that although Lisa Pierce was on life support when he visited Harbor Hospital Sunday afternoon, he remains optimistic about her recovery.

Keeping him hopeful, he said, are memories of her smile and her voice.

"I can hear it now," Thomas said. "And it's very cheery."

Sun staff writer Laura Loh contributed to this article.

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