Margaret C. Zell

[Age 90] A visiting nurse, she helped establish the University of Maryland nursing school's living history museum.

March 08, 2007|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,sun reporter

Margaret C. Zell, a retired visiting nurse who helped establish a nursing museum at the University of Maryland School of Nursing, died of kidney failure March 1 at Frederick Villa Nursing Home in Catonsville. She was 90.

Margaret Culler was born in Frederick and raised in Feagaville, Frederick County. She was a 1934 graduate of Frederick High School and earned a degree from the University of Maryland School of Nursing in 1939.

Mrs. Zell began her career at what was then University Hospital, and during the 1940s was in charge of a medical-surgical floor.

"I was a student at the nursing school when I first met her. She was a very professional yet friendly person," said Kathryn P. Donnelly, a retired nurse who had been in charge of a neurosurgical operating room at what is now the University of Maryland Medical Center.

"Margaret was a very smart and broad-minded lady, and an excellent nurse. She always wore a starched uniform and the Florence Nightingale cap," Mrs. Donnelly said.

In 1950, Mrs. Zell left University and took a job with the Visiting Nurses Association, where she practiced nursing until retiring in 1981.

"It was early home health care and an interesting experience for her. She said she had a `company car' and was assigned to East Baltimore," Mrs. Donnelly said. "She'd visit patients at home, change their bandages, check blood pressure, sugar and medications, and do examinations. Her eyes, ears and a sixth sense [were] what she worked with."

Mrs. Donnelly said that patients and families were very "gracious and grateful" for her visits and medical assistance, and that during her career, she had gathered "lots of stories."

However, one family who had a pet parrot evidently felt otherwise about Mrs. Zell's visits.

"In those days, a lot of families kept parrot cages, which they'd put outside during the summer months, and you could hear them," Mrs. Donnelly said. "One day as a family was saying goodbye and watching Margaret go down the steps, suddenly their parrot squawked, `Go to hell, nurse.' It was one of her favorite stories."

Mrs. Zell was a founder of the University of Maryland School of Nursing's Living History Museum, which opened in 1999.

The museum, one of only a few facilities of its kind in the nation, preserves the history and artifacts of the university's nursing school, which was established in 1889.

"Margaret was a saver, and she encouraged others to turn in their old uniforms and caps and other things they had collected, such as material from the nurses who were with the University of Maryland's 142nd General Hospital unit in the Pacific during World War II," Mrs. Donnelly said.

"Margaret was also a docent and an interesting speaker who loved talking to groups about her experiences," said Betty J. Cooper, a retired nurse and longtime friend. "She also described the school and how nursing and the philosophy of nursing education had changed during her lifetime."

Mrs. Zell lived independently late into her life in her Catonsville home of more than 40 years, and stopped driving only last year when she was 89. She enjoyed cooking and giving dinner parties for family and friends.

She was a longtime member of Second English Lutheran Church, 5010 Briarclift Road, Baltimore, where a memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday.

Mrs. Zell is survived by two grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. Her son, Robert F. Zell Sr., died in 1997. Her marriage to Francis X. Zell ended in divorce.

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