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Published: Saturday, 10/29/2011

Virginia 'Jinni' Nilsson, 1929-2011: Nurse was in charge of 400 other nurses

BY MARK ZABORNEY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Virginia "Jinni" Nilsson, a longtime hospital nurse who retired as an associate director of nursing services for the former Medical College of Ohio Hospital, died of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease Oct. 22 in Hospice of Northwest Ohio, Perrysburg Township. She was 82.

She was a longtime Waterville resident and lived for more than a year in the Browning Masonic Community.

Ms. Nilsson retired in 1991 after nearly a quarter-century at Medical College Hospital and its predecessor, Maumee Valley Hospital. She started as a floor nurse.

"She remembered doing one of the first kidney dialyses when they used a wash tub," her son, Craig, said.

She had an interest in the management side of hospital nursing. She was promoted to head nurse, took some classes, and eventually oversaw about 400 full and part-time nurses as associate director of nursing services.

"She really enjoyed helping people, and she was good at organization and was a good problem solver," her son said.

She was recognized when she was treated for her illness. "People would come up and say, 'Hi,' and 'Thank you for getting me the job,' " her son said.

Workers thanking her included those who'd been hired as custodial and support staff at Medical College Hospital. Even at hospice, nurses shared memories, her son said -- that "she was one of the good ones," and that she was "strict, but kind at the same time."

The former Virginia Kutzli grew up in the Fulton County community of Ottokee. She was a graduate of Wauseon High School and shortly after, went to the Toledo Hospital School of Nursing.

"She always wanted to be independent, and this was a way she could make some money, and she had some health issues as a young girl, and that got her interested in nursing," her son said.

Her first job was at Toledo State Hospital, prepping patients for electroshock therapy, her son said. She left after two years and became a private-duty nurse.

She was a homemaker and stay-at-home mother when her children were young, and the family moved to Findlay and to Warsaw, Ind., for her husband's job.

She returned to nursing in 1962 at Gerber Memorial Hospital in Fremont, Mich., a small hospital with a small staff. "There were many nights there were no doctors [at the hospital], so the nurses dealt with a lot," her son said.

Working conditions and pay improved dramatically over the decades. "It turned into a pretty decent career for her. She recognized there were opportunities for people," her son said.

She was active in the Waterville Historical Society and was a longtime quilter. In 2003, she joined a group of women to work on Waterville's bicentennial quilt, which featured such landmarks as the Columbian House and the Maumee River Bridge. She had a small vegetable garden and liked to grow flowers.

She played bridge regularly with the same group for more than 20 years.

"She liked all kinds of folks and would listen to just about anybody," her son said. While she was no-nonsense, "she was interested in what people were doing and [tried] to help them get along with their lives."

She was formerly married to William Nilsson.

Surviving are her sons, Craig and Eric Nilsson; daughter, Jean Noethlich; sister, Carol Olson, and five grandchildren.

A remembrance will be from 1-3 p.m. tomorrow in the Oak Openings Lodge on Wilkins Road at Oak Openings Preserve Metropark. For years on Easter morning, "rain or shine, snow or sleet," her son said, a group of neighbors, including the Nilssons, went to Oak Openings to cook breakfast.

The family suggests tributes to Metroparks of the Toledo Area.

Contact Mark Zaborney at: mzaborney@theblade.com or 419-724-6182.



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