In December of 2009, an article: "Nothing was disposable and we only had ether: A Historic Journey" was published in the Colorado Nurse. It was the story of Winifred Johnston Nichols from her days as a Beth El School of Nursing graduate in 1938, to her time in the OR at the Larimer County Hospital from 1938 to 1940, her membership in District Nurses Association 9 in Ft Collins, and her experiences as a Navy nurse in WWII. The story ended with Winifred at the age of 92, living in Minot, North Dakota, growing violets at home, playing bridge, and reading 14 books a month from the library, and receiving help from a caregiver in the house.
I recently received a letter from Winifred that brought me up to date on her very different life. She has given me permission to share it with you.
"Dear Friends and Family;
This is a letter I never supposed I would have to write in order to explain what has happened in my life.
Minot and all of North Dakota had a real wet spring. All the rivers in that area ran full and overflowed. The Mouse River that runs through Minot overflowed its banks and threatened to flood the town. I wouldn't believe it until the policeman came to the door and said I had to leave the house. The sirens were blowing and I decided I had no choice but to leave.
It was on June 22, 2011 that my caregiver Crystal Brown grabbed up some of my essential items such as clothes and heirloom pictures and left. A friend had told me she had room for me out of the evacuation area but my wheelchair wouldn't go through her doors.
A couple of my friends, Art and Verla... who live in Bismark heard of my plight and asked me to come stay with them.
For three weeks I watched the flood news as the river rose higher and higher. There was no way to tell what was happening to my house. It was impossible to know whether the water was doing any damage. One day the news came that the house had been flooded, the basement and up four and a half feet on the upper floor. I had been so sure it wouldn't flood the house that I wouldn't consider moving the furniture so all was lost.
Crystal came to Bismark and picked me up as I couldn't do any business in Minot from so far away. The city was covered with water over the roofs of houses down in lower spots. For weeks there had not been any place to stay so I took up residence in the Red Cross Disaster Shelter where I stayed night and day on a cot. They gave us three meals a day. During that time I got as much of my business affairs taken care of as I could.
For months I had planned on attending the Johnston family reunion scheduled for July 22, and hosted by my nephews Jim and Jack Johnston and their wives, headquartered in Thedford, Nebraska.
My nephew Bobby and a friend came to Minot to see what could be done with the house and its contents. They forced their way into the house through doors blocked by furniture that had floated and come to rest in front of the doors and hallway. They found very little they could salvage. Everything that had been under water had rotted or came apart. A few things higher on the walls were rescued. The silver and some of the sturdier things were dug out of the mud. These items were packed and loaded into Bobby's pick up for storage.
By this time my niece Carol and husband Marty had been on the alert to help me if they could. They came to get me and we all headed to the family reunion.
All went well for the reunion. We had a good crowd. Everybody had a great time.
One of the topics of conversation was where I was going to go. It was decided there may be an opening in the assisted living facility my sister-in-law Jean lives in on the southwest corner of Nebraska. Dorothy Johnston, another sister-in-law had been admitted into nursing care the previous week and her children, Jim, Jack, and Barb graciously made her furniture available to me.
With all the nieces and nephews rallying around I was settled into the apartment within the week. So here I am.
I am comfortable. The meals are very good and I'm getting things in order for a foursome of bridge. There has been a lot of business to attend to but most has been taken care of by now. Jean and I are enjoying catching up with old times. As far as I can see this will be my home for the future. I'll try to get Christmas cards out as usual.
I look forward to hearing from you or having a visit from you if you are ever this way.
Winifred "Johnny" "Chubby" Nichols