by Brian Beise
Ada Parker grew up during the great depression, abandoned by her parents and raised by her eldest sister. When it came time to choose a career, Ada only had one path on her mind. She wanted to be a nurse. By then World War II was on, and nursing schools were offering the education essentially free of charge. Should she be accepted, Ada would only have to pay for a few essentials, such as stockings and a textbook. When she brought up the idea, though, the family informed her that it was time she helped pay the bills. That meant getting a job right away, so Ada found a secretarial position and worked in the field for the rest of her life. She married, raised two sons, and sent them both to college.
Seventy years later, Ada passed away. Her son, Timothy Parker ’86, was going through Ada’s things and found a yellowed letter tucked away in her high school yearbook. The letter was from the head sister at the Mercy School of Nursing in Baltimore, discussing Ada’s acceptance into the program.
“That kind of broke my heart,” says Tim, “that she really wanted to go but couldn’t, just because of financial needs.” Growing up, Tim always knew about his mother’s interest in nursing, but never understood it had been her life’s dream. “It was more than a little girl saying, ‘I want to be a ballerina,’ or a little boy saying, ‘I want to be a fireman.’ It was consistent. She never let on that she’d gotten that far in the process.”
For many years, Ada was administrative assistant to the director of nursing at Shepherd Pratt Hospital. Moreover, her niece, Susan DePrine Hansen ’80, became a nurse, and Tim himself is a physician’s assistant. Ada was never far from the profession she loved. Tim remembers the day of Susan’s graduation from nursing school. “Even though I was only in sixth grade, I still remember seeing my mother’s excitement,” he says.
“I think she would’ve been a nursery nurse,” says Tim. “In church she always made sure the nursery was well taken care of, doing the laundry and what not. In fact, we declined having flowers at her funeral so money could be put toward the church nursery.”
Thinking back on his mother’s life and all she did to put him through school, Tim was inspired to pass that blessing on to others. “After prayer, it just seemed very fitting that money would be set aside for students who want to go to nursing school but may not have the means to do so.” Tim arranged a gift to Covenant, in memory of his mother, aimed at helping pre-nursing students in financial need.
Nursing requires a servant’s heart, and through her son’s gift to Covenant, Ada’s service and sacrifice will be remembered. She put her nursing dream away for the sake of others. Through this gift, Tim hopes students like young Ada will not have to do the same.