Mary L. Whittington dies at 89

Nurse who served with the Navy Nurse Corps

May 19, 2010|By Frederick N. Rasmussen, The Baltimore Sun

Mary L. Whittington, a retired registered nurse who served with the Navy Nurse Corps during World War II, died Saturday of heart failure at Stella Maris Hospice in Timonium.

The Lutherville and Ocean City resident was 89.

Mary Louise McCollum, the daughter of a civil engineer and a homemaker, was born in Baltimore and raised on Longwood Street.

After graduating from the Institute of Notre Dame, she earned a degree from the Mercy Hospital School of Nursing.

Mrs. Whittington was working as an operating room nurse at Mercy when she joined the Naval Reserve Nurse Corps in 1942.

She was denied entry into the regular Navy because she was "too thin at the time," family members said.

Two years later, she received orders to report to the USS Refuge, a Navy hospital ship, which sailed the Atlantic transporting casualties from Europe to the U.S.

Rather than working in the ship's operating room, Mrs. Whittington was assigned to its psychiatric ward.

"She described her service on the Refuge as 'a wonderful experience … never in danger, I got to see the world,' " said a daughter, Mary Lee Brown of Berwyn, Pa.

One highlight of her travels, her daughter said, was having an audience with Pope Pius XII while her ship was docked in Naples, Italy.

Mrs. Whittington spent the last 17 months of World War II working at a convalescent hospital in Asbury Park, N.J., until being discharged at the end of 1945.

Her wartime decorations included the American Campaign Medal, the Asiatic Pacific and Philippine Liberation Medal and the Victory Medal.

She returned to the Mercy operating room, where she worked until marrying her husband, Francis X. Whittington, in 1950 and starting her family.

After her children were grown, she returned to nursing at Mercy and at St. Joseph Medical Center.

The couple lived in Govans and later moved to Lutherville. In 1983, they retired to Ocean City.

After the death of her husband, who had been personnel manager of Bethlehem Steel's Buffalo Tank Division, in 1998, Mrs. Whittington moved to Ocean Pines. Late last year, she moved to Abingdon.

Mrs. Whittington had been an active member of St. Luke's and St. Andrew's Roman Catholic Church in Ocean City, and had been a member of the auxiliary of the Knights of Columbus and Ancient Order of Hibernians.

She enjoyed playing cards and vacationing at the beach.

A memorial Mass will be offered at 11 a.m. Thursday at St. Mark Roman Catholic Church, 812 Reckord Road in Fallston.

Also surviving are two sons, Bill Whittington of Annapolis and Xav Whittington of Monkton; three other daughters, Peggy Bowers of Ocean Pines, Janet McElroy of Abingdon and Jean Hart of Bel Air; 15 grandchildren; and a great-grandson. A son, Charles F. Whittington, died in 1971; and a daughter, Patricia C. Whittington, died in 1955.

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

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