Ethylene Nelson, 93, is a small round woman, contemplative and quiet, yet burning with stories to tell and is equipped with a mind like a computer. She has been a resident of Loyalist-Emeritus since 2001 when she decided to retire to an assisted-care facility to quietly live her life in serenity and comfort, after long and activity-laced years which left her with many gentle memories to sustain her. She is a very fascinating woman and one who Jamestown welcomes home.
Ethylene was born in 1917, in Jamestown, to John and Hillman Nelson at the start of the notorious flu epidemic which swept the country. Her father worked at the furniture company and her mother cleaned house, a family accustomed to work. She graduated from Jamestown High School in 1935 as part of what is known as the ''orphan class,'' one which had no school as the present high school was being constructed that year. This did not hinder Ethelyn in her life's explorations and from there she went to Swedish Covenant Hospital in Chicago, studied nurses training and received her RN degree in 1940. After Pearl Harbor had been attacked and America was at war, she returned to Jamestown and worked at WCA and Jamestown General Hospital. Then, she and her friend, Alice Lindblad, decided to see adventure and they enlisted in the U.S. Navy as Navy nurses in 1943.
Shortly, she was ordered to Washington, D.C. to ''fight the battle of the Potomac,'' as she puts it, but her main duty was in the Main Navy Building Dispensary in Arlington, Va. After serving there for several years, she again returned to Jamestown and the Jamestown General hospital. She made some quick trips to California during this time and worked at the county hospital, in the operating room, though in a few years she was recalled to the Navy and in 1950, at the time of the Korean War, she spent two years at Mare Island submarine base in Vallejo, Calif.. Later, she also served during the Vietnam conflict.
After years of hectic nursing service with returning war servicemen, Ethelyn decided, in 1957, to resume a search for a degree in nursing and enrolled at Case Western Reserve in Ohio and in 1957, received a Bachelor of Science degree and felt fulfilled, and for a short time worked at the Veteran's Hospital in Cleveland. Still feeling a pull to the U.S. Navy, she returned again and was stationed at Beaufort, S.C. and from there was sent to Argentina, Newfoundland and St. Albans in New York City. Her last duty was at Naval Medical Center in Bethesda where she worked tirelessly in the open-heart surgery department. Also, while here, she remembers being part of the ambulance corps at President Kennedy's inauguration. For a decade she went where the Navy sent her and finally, in 1973, after 25 years of service and the rank of lieutenant commander, she decided to retire. She retained her apartment at Grosvenor Place in North Bethesda and embarked upon the last phase of her life's adventure which involved the Kennedy Center in Washington and the White House.
She began, at age 54, with volunteer service at the Kennedy Center Gift Shop, this lasting 20 years and a position in the White House Greeting Office, which also lasted 25 years. She served during the Reagan, ''Papa'' Bush administrations and the Clinton, then the ''junior'' Bush administrations. She recalls many pleasant experiences while at the White House and a singular Christmas party at which Barbara Bush presented her with a needlework kit she has hanging in her apartment. She also recalls a friendly encounter with Hilary Clinton, though she does remember that Mrs. Clinton was always in a rush. She also amusingly recalls a woman who pleaded with the White House Correspondence Office not to send her an 80th birthday card, as she didn't want her boyfriend to know her age!
One horrifying memory involves the events of Sept. 11, 2001, when the planes were reported heading for the White House and all personnel were evacuated. They spent the day, under guard by the Secret Service, in the lobby of the World Bank. Like everyone, she says that the date 9/11 will always hold crushing memories for her and all the occurrences of that time led her to decide that full-time retirement was her next adventure.
She decided to come home to Jamestown and live with the sweet memories and the many friends and contacts she had made over the years. In 2001 she moved to Loyalton-Emeritus, determined to relax and see to her personal, long-time aspirations, maintain her contacts and file her memories, as well. It appears that she has maintained herself and her desires very well for the 10 years she has been here. She likes the camaraderie among the residents and she finds the meals satisfying. Contemplating the wounded veterans and the many sailors who received her nursing attention during the nation's wars is probably a long-running preoccupation. It is a fine and vigorous life she looks back on and it is hoped she has many more years of contemplation.