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Published: 5/8/2004

Longtime obstetrical nurse served during World War II

Ellen L. Brenner, 85, who was an obstetrical nurse during a 40-year career interrupted by World War II Army Nurse Corps service overseas, died Thursday in the Hospice of Northwest Ohio, Perrysburg Township, from complications of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Mrs. Brenner, of South Toledo, retired in 1980 as a registered nurse at Medical College of Ohio Hospitals, her husband, Robert, said. She had been head nurse in the obstetrics department there and at its predecessor, Maumee Valley Hospital.

She was fastidious, her husband said, and her aim was to make sure that patients had the best care when she was on duty.

"Her life was content," he said.

Mrs. Brenner grew up in East Toledo and was a 1936 graduate of Waite High School. She was a 1939 graduate of nursing training at Riverside Hospital.

"She was always an all-honors student," her husband said. "They were very poor kids. When she went into nurses' training, there was a group in Toledo, they were business women, who would give honors students an opportunity to get a loan to go through school.

"She went through nurses' training knowing she would always have a job. And she was such a compassionate person, I don't know what else she could have done."

Mrs. Brenner began her career at Riverside in obstetrics.

"She loved kids. She came from a family of seven," her husband said. "She was so tender, she didn't want to see the harsh side. She would rather see a baby come in than see someone dying."

Within days of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941, she and several nursing colleagues joined the Army Nurse Corps. She became a surgical nurse and cared for the wounded in North Africa, Italy, and France.

"When the bombs would drop, they couldn't leave the table nine times out of 10 [because] some poor soldier was lying there," her husband said. "She said she was scared for two years, more than anybody ought to be. She said it made [her] know you can work under those conditions and do what you have to do. She was very strong."

She was discharged as a first lieutenant.

The couple met at the former Trianon Ballroom on Madison Avenue after both returned from wartime service. They married May 19, 1947.

"We were poor. We had a dream. We worked at it together," her husband said. "And the dreams all came true, one by one."

Mrs. Brenner enjoyed motor trips, and the couple pulled their trailer on vacations that took them from New England to Florida. She liked to fish.

The couple had boats through the years and used to keep quarter horses when their house on Heatherdowns Boulevard fronted a two-lane road, instead of a major thoroughfare. She had been a member of the Laurel Hill Swim and Tennis Club.

Surviving are her husband, Robert; daughters, Elizabeth Hodges and Kathy Iller; sister, Virginia Hendricks; brothers, Ronald, the Rev. Harold, and Leon Konz, and six grandchildren.

Services will be at 1 p.m. Monday in the Newcomer-Farley Mortuary, where visitation will be from 2 to 7 p.m. tomorrow.

The family suggests tributes to the Hospice of Northwest Ohio.



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