Mary Evelyn (Wetzel) Nerone, R.N., age 95, passed away peacefully on May 5, 2010, surrounded by family members. She was the beloved wife of the late Dr. William S. Nerone, M.D., F.A.C.S.
Born in Providence in 1914, to Margaret (Brothers) and William B. Wetzel, she attended Blessed Sacrament School, St. Mary’s Academy and Classical High School. She earned a B.S. in Nursing Education from St. Louis University, where she was listed in the Who’s Who Among Students. She obtained her R.N. certification from St. Joseph’s Hospital. Her nursing career included being the Pediatric Head Nurse at St. Joseph’s Hospital, an operating nurse at St. Claire’s Hospital in New York City, and then as an Instructor of Social Sciences at St. Joseph’s Hospital, Providence. In 1942, she interrupted her nursing career (or so she thought), to become the wife of the late Capt. (later Major) William S. Nerone, M.D., F.A.C.S., and subsequently became the mother of nine children which she sometimes described as their own Pediatric Ward. After her husband’s military discharge, they moved to a large home in Riverside, which also served as his medical office. While rearing nine children, Evelyn (the name which she preferred to be called), served as nurse and bookkeeper for her husband’s medical practice for 25 years, and periodically substituted for nursing staff at the Uniroyal Corporation (U.S. Rubber Plant), in Providence.
Following Dr. Nerone’s debilitating stroke in October, 1967, Evelyn devoted herself to his personal care and therapy until his death in February, 1975, while continuing to manage the household and care for several children still living at home. During this time, she also worked nights and weekends as a Student Health Nurse at both Brown University and Providence College.
Evelyn then devoted her time working as the Coordinator of Employee Health at Women & Infants Hospital, for which she received a commendation from the Providence City Council for her dedicated service to the hospital community.
For many years, Evelyn was an active member of St. Mary’s Academy Bay View Guild and an officer of the St. Louis University Club of R.I. She was a communicant of St. Brendan’s Parish in Riverside for over 65 years and attended daily Mass well into her senior years.
Evelyn was an inspiration to many of the people whose lives she touched, in particular, her children for whom she was a wonderful example of how to lead a virtuous life, giving of herself, to make others happy. Her courage and competence in the handling of family tragedy and her determination to overcome challenges, which would have overwhelmed many, were truly remarkable. Yet, despite the burden of personal sorrows, an incredible optimism and trust permeated her life. Her love of life was infectious and evident on all occasions, from festive celebrations to simple, quiet get-togethers with family and friends. Her genuine desire for the success and happiness of others was conveyed in an unforgettable smile which uplifted our hearts as it lit up her lovely face.
Evelyn and her husband incorporated prayer into family life, making the evening rosary a part of the daily routine for many years, leading prayers before evening meals, and celebrating the many Sacramental events of each of their children. Annual vacations to New England and Canadian cities, towns, and countrysides always included finding the local Catholic Church for Mass on Sundays and short visits during the week.
Throughout her life, Evelyn made time for outdoor activities. Since childhood, she loved ice-skating and passed along that interest to her children through a family membership in the Providence Figure Skating Club. During her adult life, she also took up skiing with a women’s activity group she helped to initiate and sustain for several years. She was a good swimmer, a tennis player, and a musician who loved to play the organ her husband bought for her. They both gave their children the opportunities to learn and excel in the arts and sporting activities, signing them up for lessons in everything from piano and tuba to synchronized swimming, ice hockey, horseback riding, art classes, and on and on; as each child made their individual interests and ambitions known.
Evelyn’s life changed radically in October, 1967, when her husband was stricken with a debilitating stroke. During the ensuing seven years, Evelyn devoted herself to her husband’s personal care, assisting with his speech and physical therapies. She also engaged him in constant conversation and ensured his continuing involvement in family life. To keep up their mutual passion for shopping, even when sons and daughters were not available to help, she regularly guided and held her husband as he made his way down two flights of steps to the driveway for their regular shopping excursions. These trips were later facilitated by the installation of an elevator from the main floor to the driveway. Evelyn also facilitated her husband’s efforts to continue to be a good father and counselor to his children despite the limitations of speech and movement resulting from his stroke. She accomplished this feat while continuing management of the household and assuming primary responsibility for the raising of several children still living at home. Obviously, family life changed dramatically from the earlier years, a hard-working but overwhelmingly happy atmosphere being replaced by a much more serious one. The younger children’s earlier experiences of a happy and secure childhood were suddenly expanded to include sadness and uncertainty, and they were called upon to mature more quickly and shoulder more responsibilities at an earlier age than their older siblings.
Following her husband’s passing in 1975, Evelyn began a new career as the Coordinator of Employee Health at Women & Infants Hospital in Providence. In addition to performing her professional duties, she began an after-work exercise program for the employees of Women & Infants. When she retired 18 years later, at the age of 79, she received a commendation from the Providence City Council for her dedicated service to the hospital community.
Evelyn spent much of her time in her maternal role. An accomplished seamstress, she sewed many, many outfits for her children: Easter dresses and prom dresses, ice-skating outfits, dolls’ clothes, even bathing suits for the girls, trousers and jackets for the boys. There always seemed to be several projects underway at once demanding her quick and skillful finishing in time for her children’s many activities. She took such care with these pieces, from the darling velvet coats with matching bonnets for the girls to the elegant full length gowns her daughters still cannot bear to part with so many years later.
Family vacations were quite an event for the Nerone family. Eleven Nerone’s frequently piled into the station wagon and were joined on excursions by Nanna Wetzel, Evelyn’s mother, and sometimes by friends of the children. Obviously, there was the rooftop carrier to bring along the luggage!
Evelyn was remarkable in meeting the many challenges of her busy and partially tragic life. On the serious side, she was a devoted spouse and caretaker to her husband, thoughtful counselor and mentor to her children, and a hard-worker who spoke repeatedly of the importance of “pushing myself” to make things happen. She also thoroughly enjoyed the many everyday things, chief among them being shopping. In fact, the expression “shop till you drop” must have been written about her, as she could easily put all her daughters “under the table” with her incredible stamina while “pounding the pavement”. She also was such
good company, being open, cheerful, optimistic, and humorous. She obviously enjoyed the company of others and cherished warm and friendly exchanges with family and friends.
She will be truly, truly missed!
Evelyn is survived by her nine children: Margaret Bailey and husband Jack of Warren; Evelyn Kiley and husband Tom of Manassas, VA; Jane Cahan and husband Joseph of Clayton, MO; Joanne Rafferty and husband William of Richardson, TX; William and wife Allison of Narragansett; Stephen and wife Beverly of Seekonk, MA; Joseph and wife Linda of West Warwick; Mary Willette and husband Brad of Gahanna, OH; Anne Dansereau and husband David of Warwick. She is also survived by her brother Wilbur Wetzel and his wife Eleanor of Warwick. She is Grandmother (Nanna) to 16 grandchildren and 4 great grandchildren. Besides her parents, Evelyn was predeceased by her brothers Edmund, Robert, and William Wetzel.
Relatives and friends are invited to attend visiting hours Monday, May 10th, from 4 - 8 PM at Smith’s Funeral Home, 8 Schoolhouse Road in Warren. The funeral will be held on Tuesday, May 11th, at 8 AM from Smith’s Funeral Home, followed by a Mass of Christian Burial at St. Brendan’s Parish, 60 Turner Avenue in Riverside at 9 AM. Burial will be at Gate of Heaven Cemetery, East Providence.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in her memory to the Women & Infants Development Foundation, 101 Dudley Street, Providence, RI, 02905.