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Isabel Hemingway, missionary nurse, dies at 101

ISABEL HEMINGWAY used a degree in nursing from the old Philadelphia General Hospital to take her message of hope and healing around the world.

ISABEL HEMINGWAY used a degree in nursing from the old Philadelphia General Hospital to take her message of hope and healing around the world.

Isabel, who was Ernest Hemingway's last remaining first cousin, was born in China to missionary parents, and when she returned to the United States to attend college, she decided on a nursing career.

That brought her to Philadelphia to the former PGH, whose graduates staffed hospitals and private facilities for generations.

She graduated in 1932. The hospital closed in 1977.

Isabel, an educator and author who returned to China as a nurse and later worked in Turkey, died Feb. 1. She was 101 and lived in Pleasant Hill, Tenn.

She was born in Taigu, Shanxi Province, North China, to Dr. Willoughby Hemingway, a United Church of Christ missionary, and Mary Williams Hemingway, who led Christian-education classes while raising Isabel and her late siblings, Adelaide, Stephen and Winifred.

Isabel graduated from Oberlin College with a bachelor's degree in history in 1930.

After graduating from PGH, she returned to Taigu, where she spoke the local dialect, and worked as a nurse in the hospital there from 1934 until 1941.

She returned to the United States as war raged in the Far East, training as a nurse midwife at the Maternity Center Association (MCA), in New York. She stayed on as staff to help recent immigrants who did not want to go to the hospital, and also ran prenatal clinics.

She returned to China in 1946 with the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Association and was assigned to the hospital in Taiyuan, Shanxi Province, near where she grew up.

She was the head nurse of three obstetrical wards, attending some deliveries.

In 1949, Isabel and an MCA classmate, Edith Galt, were asked by UNICEF to coordinate a training program for nurse midwives in Beijing in conjunction with the People's Republic of China.

They and Dr. Leo Eloesser compiled a technical manual for midwifery in Chinese for their students. It was later published in English by UNICEF as "Pregnancy, Childbirth and the Newborn - A Manual for Rural Midwives." It was eventually also translated into Korean, Spanish and Portuguese.

Although Isabel left China in 1951, the midwifery program continued for another 20 years.

In 1952, Isabel went to Talas, Turkey, with the United Church of Christ Mission Board to work in a village clinic.

After five years, she asked to work in Gaziantep, Turkey, to coordinate a nurse's aide program. These aides did what full-fledged nurses do in the United States - working in operating rooms, giving medications and attending the sick and wounded.

During the 10 years she was there, the program became much respected in the country.

She then returned to Talas for five more years.

Isabel retired in 1973 and moved to Washington, D.C., to care for her 98-year-old mother. She hosted a Vietnamese family in her home for a time.

In 1978, she moved to a retirement community in Pleasant Hill, Tenn., where she regaled the children in the Pleasant Hill Community School with tales of her many adventures in China and Turkey, and knitted hundreds of small sweaters for them.

Services: Memorial service 4 p.m. Feb. 26 in Adshead Hall in Pleasant Hill.

A second service will be held at 1 p.m. Aug. 8 at the Community House in Pleasant Hill.

Donations may be made to Division of Overseas Ministries, Global Ministries, United Church of Christ, Box 1986, Indianapolis, IN 46206. *