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LONGTIME NURSE RECALLS THIN TIME.

Byline: BETTIE RENCORET / Senior Columnist

During the concentration on obesity and weight loss in the early 1970s, the late Dr. Reuben C. Gessele, a bariatrics physician, offered what was known as the HCG weight-loss program. Marguarite Shirley was his nurse.

Then, as now, there was a drive to raise public awareness of the dangers of carrying around any excess avoirdupois, and a great many people who were overweight flocked to the Lancaster Medical Clinic.

There, Marguarite and her cohort, nurse Mavis Burrows, administered weekly injections of the prescribed potion to receptive patients who then reported every weekday for a weigh-in.

``There was a time,'' she said, ``when I did up to 150 injections a day.''

In anticipation of the influx, Mavis and she would fill those syringes ahead of time and have them ready on a tray so they could get the people in and out fast.

``Most of them had to come in on work breaks,'' she said.

The program also provided a low-calorie diet which included fast days and an apple day.

``It really worked for most of our patients,'' she said. ``In any weight-loss program you have periods where you hit a plateau and the scales show no change for a while. That can be discouraging, so when that happened, we recommended an apple day. For that one day, the patient could eat up to five apples, but that was all. That usually broke the cycle and the pounds started to come off again.''

Then criticism of the program began to circulate. The medical establishment view became that HCG - or human chorionic gonadotropin, a hormone extracted from the urine of pregnant women - was useful for treating infertility in women but had not been demonstrated as effective against obesity.

Finally, the adverse notoriety caused the program to shut down, and those who had benefited from it mourned its loss. Some moved on to other programs not overseen by a physician.

Marguarite's nursing duties did not start or stop with the weight-reduction program.

She worked at the Lancaster Medical Clinic from 1969 through 1985, first as a receptionist then as clerk and fill-in nurse for the eight resident doctors.

From 1971 to 1973 she was personal office nurse for Dr. T.M. Price, then she became Gessele's personal nurse.

``I worked for him 11-1/2 years - until he retired Dec. 31, 1984,'' she said. ``When he left, I went to Dr. E.R. Busby for 13 months. He retired Jan. 30, 1986.''

During her years at the clinic, Shirley counts as most memorable all the babies she helped deliver.

``We operated a birthing center there, and two of those babies were special. They are named after me, Margaret and Marguarite,'' she said.

Marguarite, who is about half Irish and half Cherokee ``with just a pinch of German,'' was born Jan. 5, 1940, in Pawhuska, Okla. She was one of seven girls and four boys.

``I can remember hearing tales about the suffering of some of my relatives who were on the Trail of Tears,'' she said. ``That was the march the Army forced the Cherokees to take in the Old West days.''

She came to Big Pine, Calif., as a toddler with her family in 1942. They moved to the Antelope Valley in 1951 while her father worked for Southern Pacific Railroad.

She graduated from Antelope Valley High School in 1957 and received her licensed vocational nurse degree from the Antelope Valley College school of nursing in 1970.

In 1979, after a telephone courtship for one month before they met in person, and three months of dating, she married Leonard Shirley in Las Vegas, Nev. It was the second marriage for both, and each had nearly grown children.

Hers are David Eslick of Palmdale; Brian Eslick of Socorro, N.M.; Clark Eslick of Chugwater, Wyo.; and Ellen Eslick Ridgway, of Lancaster. His are Gina La Mark of Petaluma and Maria Criswell of Littlerock.

``Mr. Leonard'' was regarded as a talented cosmetologist, styling women in the Antelope Valley and in the North Hollywood area, but on occasion was Liberace's hair stylist.

When he tired of the beauty business, he went to work as a supervisor on the space shuttle tiling program. He retired from that job in 1991.

Marguarite served as nursing supervisor for Sierra Primary Care from 1986 to 1987, and also worked as a home care nurse for the Visiting Nurses Association in 1986.

She worked for a year for Dr. Gary W. Grubb, then another year for Dr. Victor Boyle, before she retired in 1989.

She retains her nursing license but spends most of her time these days volunteering and enjoying her 23 grandchildren.

LANCASTER - ``Fit Over Fifty'' is the title of a new fitness program held Tuesdays and Thursdays at 9 a.m. in the multipurpose room at the Antelope Valley Senior Center, 777 W. Jackman St.

John White, coordinator, asks all seniors who want to participate to bring their own mats and hand weights.

The program is designed to ensure quality senior living and stimulate longevity.

LANCASTER - Menus for the week at the senior life nutrition sites in Lancaster, Palmdale and Quartz Hill have been announced. All meals include bread, margarine and coffee, tea or milk for a suggested congregate donation of $2.

Monday: Meatballs and spaghetti, mixed vegetables, tossed salad, and orange and grapefruit sections.

Tuesday: Ham, sweet potatoes, peas, lettuce and tomato salad, and ice cream.

Wednesday: Salisbury steak with gravy, mashed potatoes, beets, garden salad and peach crisp.

Thursday: Chicken Dijon, oven-browned potatoes, Normandy vegetables, marinated vegetables, salad and cake.

Friday: Baked fish, scalloped potatoes, green beans, coleslaw and fruit cocktail.

CAPTION(S):

Photo

PHOTO Lancaster resident Marguarite Shirley relaxes with her dog, Penny.

Bettie Rencoret/Special to the Daily News
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Copyright 1998, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Mar 22, 1998
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