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Remembering Elsie L. Bandman




AMHERST - Elsie Lucier Bandman, RN, EdD, FAAN (Fellow of the American Academy of Nursing) was born September 16, 1920, to Lea LeClair Lucier and Alfred J. Lucier, at home in Putnam, Connecticut. As the oldest in a family of four children, Elsie really did walk three miles to a two-room, mixed-age schoolhouse in Abington. Not being allowed to take chemistry because she was a girl, she graduated from Putnam High School in 1938, and went directly into the Hartford Hospital School of Nursing graduating in 1939.

Enlisting in the U.S. Army Nurse Corps, she was assigned to the 15th General Hospital. Elsie went overseas with her unit on the S.S. Queen Mary, escorted partway by the Canadian navy through the North Atlantic. She recalled spending much of the journey seasick, leaning on the ship's smokestacks for warmth on the upper deck. Arriving safely, the unit was stationed in Ellesmere, England, in March 1944, where they awaited the end of D-Day invasion. They crossed the English Channel in August 1944, landing on Omaha Beach. Elsie remembered having to walk around many American casualties, seeing burned limbs lying on the beach and remnants of parachutes in the trees.

During the weeks in a tent in Normandy, Elsie attended church services on Sundays and her years of growing up in a French-speaking household eased her way into invitations to dinners with the local, appreciative farm families. She relished the chicken, wine and Calvados, a brandy made from apples, as a much-needed break from the K-rations. She noted that the little girls frequently wore dresses made from parachute nylon. Elsie was able to celebrate her 24th birthday in newly liberated Paris!

Soon, her unit was moved to Liege, Belgium. They set up the General Hospital in a medieval citadel terrifyingly close to the Battle of the Bulge. Her hospital service focused on eyes, ears, noses and throats, frostbitten feet, war wounds and heartsick soldiers. During the brutal winter, most of the time there was no heat in the building. She had to assist in removing eyes and limbs from injured troops and comforted their weeping by reassuring these terribly injured soldiers that "they would be loved by other people." She recalled being in a nearby building getting supplies when a buzz bomb fell on the hospital, killing 25 colleagues and friends in December 1944. Elsie remembers that after the death of President Franklin Roosevelt, the entire city of Liege was draped in black and that many Belgians offered condolences at America's loss. Although the Germans broke through the line, in the end, the Allied troops prevailed and the war ended a few months later.

Elsie returned to Putnam in November 1945. She sorely missed her fellow dedicated women nurses. She used the GI Bill to attend Simmons College, obtaining a bachelor's degree in science in nursing in 1949 and worked for the Boston Visiting Nurses' Association. She then moved to New York City, took classes at New York University and earned a master's degree in public health nursing in 1952. While a student, Elsie worked at the International Students House and met her future husband, Bertram, a student at Columbia University. They bonded over mutual values, watching the McCarthy hearings and engaging in spirited political discussions with friends. They married in mid-August (they were never sure of the exact date) in 1951 in a courthouse, and both continued their studies. From 1952 to 1968, Elsie joined the teaching staff and was then promoted to director of the School of Practical Nursing at Montefiore Hospital, a pioneering teaching hospital. One day in February 1959, Elsie had just finished teaching her class when her water broke, her students rushed her into a taxi and her daughter Nancy conveniently was born four hours later.

Elsie continued her education while working full-time and earned her doctor of education from Columbia University in 1968. From 1968 to 1995, she rose through the ranks to become a professor in the Hunter-Bellevue School of Nursing, Hunter College of the City University of New York. Throughout her Hunter years, she enjoyed teaching psychiatric nursing, received numerous awards and recognition for contributions made in the fields of mental health, public health, geriatrics, and medical ethics. She received the Hunter College's Presidential Medal in 1983. Elsie was one of the original grant writers for her department and was a frequent lecturer across the country, inspiring scores of nurses in the areas of critical thinking and the role of ethics in medical settings, prioritizing the patient's rather than the health care practitioners' interests. Breaking new ground in the 70's, 80's and 90's, Elsie's articles and presentations emphasized the vital role nurses played in the medical experiences of patients and examined moral dilemmas of abortion, euthanasia, medical intervention, and highlighted the importance of including and supporting family involvement. Elsie became the first nurse in New York to be accepted as a Fellow into the American Academy of Nursing. Together with Bertram, she co-authored three books; "Bioethics and Human Rights" in 1978; "Critical Thinking in Nursing" in 1988 with a second edition in 1995; "Nursing Ethics Through the Life Span" in 1985, with a second edition in 1990, a third edition in 1995, and a fourth edition in 2002. They led health care focused trips to the USSR and China; and Elsie spoke at the International Congress of Nurses in Israel in 1982.

Elsie always lived her life in pursuit of knowledge. She was an avid reader, soaking up daily newspapers, 15 monthly health newsletters, American history and biography books. She was always on duty as a nurse and wouldn't hesitate to advise her family and friends about their medical conditions; and maintained an excellent batting average when it came to her ability to self-diagnose her conditions. As a young girl, when her daughter Nancy heard her mother's rallying cry, "I'm a nurse," and a pull on her hand, she knew she would be assisting in yet another medical intervention on the sidewalks of New York until an ambulance arrived because Elsie wouldn't hesitate to assist an accident victim or a fallen elderly neighbor.

When she wasn't teaching, writing and speaking, Elsie and Bertram would take budget-conscious European excursions, taking separate airplanes to insure Nancy would not be an orphan. Many times, Elsie would plan visiting lesser-known countries and sometimes, selected trips without reading all the fine print, which led to many an unexpected adventure.

Throughout her life, Elsie adored opera, jazz, Broadway plays and musicals and art, always eager to partake in live experiences. She found she could enjoy the fellowship and the lively political discourse for years at New York's Society for Ethical Culture and later, at the Unitarian Society of Northampton and Florence. Elsie was an enthusiastic participant in the Learning in Retirement program. In 1985, for the first time in her life, Elsie and Bertram purchased their first home and over a few years began to move completely from New York City to Hatfield. While the house always had a list of things to fix, Elsie was delighted with the tomatoes and peppers she grew in her backyard garden. In 2008, Elsie and Bert moved to Applewood and very much enjoyed the community living with fine dining every night ("no cooking!") and a hard-working maintenance staff ("no fixing!") that allowed Elsie more time to pursue her preferred activities ("more reading!"). She was always very appreciative to the Applewood staff for their hard work and positive attitudes. Elsie enthusiastically attended every party and musical event, dancing frequently and relished being a part of the Applewood community. Recently, Elsie would admire the art which fills the halls of Applewood, especially that of her dear friend, Mimi.

With the assistance of the Hospice of the Fisher Home staff, Fisher Home volunteers, Applewood staff and Nancy, Elsie was able to remain at home. She died peacefully Monday, January 9, 2017, with her daughter at her side, in her own bed, at the age of 96. In 2012, one day out of the blue, Elsie announced she wished "to be useful even after death," and registered to become an anatomical donor. She now rests at the University of Massachusetts Medical School awaiting assignment to a medical student for discovery and exploration. Roy Funeral Home, Worcester, is responsible for arrangements.

Elsie leaves behind her husband Bertram of 65 years of Amherst; her daughter Nancy Bandman-Boyle and her partner Bill Ennen both of Hadley; her grandson Samuel Boyle of Hadley; and many cousins in Connecticut. Elsie was predeceased by her parents, her sisters Alice L. Gregoire and Ruth Lucier, her brother Alfred J. Lucier Jr., and her son-in-law Thomas H. Boyle III.

In honoring Elsie's wishes, a reception will be held Wednesday, January 18, from 2 to 5 pm in Applewood's Meeting, 1 Spencer Dr., Amherst.

The family requests that donations be directed to the Hospice of the Fisher Home in Amherst, in acknowledgment of the exceptional care that was provided to Elsie and her family. And, Elsie would encourage everyone to appreciate the hard-working and spirited nurses who make a difference in our lives.

Published in Daily Hampshire Gazette on January 14, 2017 | Click here to view the Obituary Guest Book