Margaret Jane Wall, a registered nurse who had been assistant director of nursing at Union Memorial Hospital for two decades, died Sunday of lung cancer at Gilchrist Center for Hospice Care. The Baldwin resident was 77.
Margaret Jane Shelton was born and raised in Moores Springs, N.C., and graduated in 1947 from Nancy Reynolds High School, where she was a star player on the girls basketball team.
She earned her nursing degree in 1951 from the old City Memorial Hospital, now known as Forsyth Medical Center, in Winston-Salem, N.C.
After she married Hugh B. Wall Sr., a Westinghouse Electric Corp. electronics engineer, in 1950, the couple moved to Baltimore.
Mrs. Wall began her nursing career at Union Memorial in 1950 and assisted in the opening of the hospital's first recovery room.
She then left nursing to raise her five children and returned to Union Memorial in 1972, where she was assistant director of nursing until retiring in 1992.
"When I think of Margaret Wall, one word comes to mind: class," said Dr. William H.B. Howard, a Baltimore surgeon. "She was always well-coiffed, wore crisply starched uniforms and spoke elegantly. Everyone was always impressed with her carriage and overall demeanor.
"She never raised her voice, and when she was around, everything was under control. She was the kind of woman who could walk into a tough waterfront saloon where there was trouble brewing and get the occupants to put down their fists and beer bottles and start answering her with respectful `Yes, ma'ams.'"
Mrs. Wall never lost her North Carolina accent and was instantly recognizable to staff and patients throughout the hospital.
Donna M. Brickley, a nurse at Union Memorial from 1974 to 1987 and now a CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield nurse at the University of Maryland, described Mrs. Wall as a "lady of integrity."
"Margaret represented the finest in nursing, and there is no other way around it," Mrs. Brickley said. "She mentored so many and was truly an inspiration. She was one of the kindest and most gracious individuals I've ever met, and for her, the patients and their families always came first."
When the blizzards of 1979 and 1983 swept through and paralyzed the state, Mrs. Wall, who generally worked 3 p.m. to 11 p.m., spent hours getting from her Baltimore County home to the hospital.
"She knew the hospital needed her, and she got there, and as far as I know, she never called in sick,." Mrs. Brickley said.
"She was a tremendous asset and a stabilizing influence at the hospital," said Dr. Allan D. Jensen, a Baltimore ophthalmologist.
Iolynn B. Connally, a retired registered nurse, worked with Mrs. Wall for many years. "Without a doubt, she was the finest nurse I have ever known," Mrs. Connally said. "She had a tremendous capacity for understanding people, and you could always depend on her for anything."
After retiring, Mrs. Wall spent time at a second home in Naples, Fla., where she enjoyed playing golf. She also liked knitting, making baby quilts and solving crossword puzzles.
She remained a steadfast University of North Carolina fan and enjoyed watching their games, family members said.
Mrs. Wall was an active member of Highland Presbyterian Church, 701 Highland Road in Street, where services will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday.
Surviving, in addition to her husband, are a son, Hugh B. Wall Jr. of Baldwin; four daughters, Raynor W. Sherlock of Gwynedd, Pa., Lisa W. Sarsalari of Brookfield, Wis., Karen W. Valentine of Street and Sarah W. Wilson of Baltimore; a sister, Mary Caroline Horton of Eden, N.C.; and 14 grandchildren.