A TRIP DOWN MEMORY LANE
- January 1, 2021
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On Monday, 11/29/ 2020, the field of professional school nursing lost one of its strongest advocates and I lost one of my dearest friends with the death of Renee Besecker.
I invite you to take a trip down My Memory Lane as I share some of my professional and personal memories that I treasure:
I Remember when:
I first met Renee back almost 50 years ago. She asked me to help her with her plans for a Professional Development Workshop she was planning to Host at her Northridge School . This was for all interested school nurses in our SW area.
She convinced me that I should become active in our SWOSNA organization which at that time was looking for a Nametag Chair. So I was off and running on my school nursing involvement with professional organizations with Renee as my mentor and guide.
School nurse members were working diligently in an attempt to get the Ohio Legislature to mandate our position in the schools. Renee made numerous trips to the Capitol in Columbus to testify and meet with legislators in an effort to educate them about the profession of school nursing.
She was elected president of SWOSNA in 1987and continually encouraged our group to become more active in local politics, writing and calling legislators when issues about students’ health, education or school safety were pending. As President, she continued to display her leadership abilities and compassion for students, staff, parents, and her community.
She was elected President of the Ohio Association of School nurses in 1992 and while serving in that position, was involved in many new projects which helped to improve the health and education of Ohio’s school children and expand the role of school nurses.
Martha Carrick, Renee, and I attended what was my first NASN conference held in New Orleans. They allowed me to bunk in with them, sleeping on a cot, but only after I had signed a BINDING CONTRACT! This held, among other stipulations, that I would see that their coffee was ready when they awakened, I would shower last so there would bean ample hot water supply when they were ready to shower, I would assist them in carrying their notebooks to class and I would go early to each classroom to make sure we would have great seats for the presentations. Some roommates!!
When Ohio hosted the 2003 National Conference in Cincinnati, as the OASN Rep to NASN at that time, I was involved in much of the planning for the event. Renee and Kathy O’Dell acted as my co-chairs and I can still picture the group of us making over 3000 buckeyes in Renee’s church’s kitchen. At later conferences someone from another state would always ask “Where are the Buckeyes?”
Renee made an unexpected visit to the hospital to visit me when I had knee replacement surgery. What a pleasant surprise that was!
Ed and I attended the ceremony when Renee was inducted into the Northridge Schools’ Hall of Honor.
I remember the fish fries that Renee and Joe, Ed and I enjoyed at Kathy and George O’Dell’s house after George returned from a successful fishing trip.
Renee was instrumental in getting our OASN Education and Research Endowment Fund started and then placed under the management of the Columbus Medical Foundation Association.
She was always there to assist me in planning our endowment fund raising events held each year at the OASN conference. I can still see her sitting at my dining room table making angels, from coffee filters, which in turn were given to each nurse attending the event.
She helped pick out the set of Sugar Mice at the Tea Shop and they became a permanent choice at the Silent Auction— and so began the “Saga of the Sugar Mice.” That tale tells where they are and what they have been up to with the person tending them during the year.
I’m remembering that Joe would attend each Endowment Event with her when they were held locally, and always offered his support to our attempts to raise money for scholarships. He also was very understanding with the time and effort she put in over the years handling school nursing business.
Renee thought it would be a good idea to get all the college professors who were teaching classes towards School Nursing Certification courses at their individual universities together. This gave them the opportunity to see what each of them was doing and also gave us “working” school nurses the opportunity to make suggestions for their programs.
Kathy, Renee, and I started the ritual of meeting for High Tea at the Euro Perk in Dayton twice a year to enjoy the goodies, tea and catch up on what was happening in our lives in our retirement.
The three of us became known as the three musketeers as we journeyed around the state to attend the yearly OASN conferences. Kathy’s Tahoe was always packed so full of our clothing and OASN supplies that if you opened the tailgate, something would fall out.
That even after her retirement from active school nursing with the Northridge City Schools, she continued to share her leadership skills and her devotion to the specialty field of school nursing by serving as the OASN Executive Director.
How sad we were when Renee was first diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease and how brave she was as she followed her doctor’s orders to a “T”, even as her condition declined.
When Judy Miller, Renee and Kathy came over for tea this past July, and I gave them their Christmas presents early (knitted angel tree ornaments). Renee was in a wheelchair that day and did not look perky but seemed to enjoy herself as we caught up with news of our families. Little did I know it would be the last time I would see her.
When Kathy called me to share the news that Renee had passed away the morning of November 29th, I was unable to continue our conversation for a few minutes and when I got off the phone I just sat and cried.
Thus instead of getting into my car on 12/1 to drive to Renee’s to be picked up by Judy, to go and see Kathy’s new house and –what else( have Tea), I’m sitting here reminiscing as I share my thoughts with you. Our Renee has gone to have Teatime with the angels now, but she will be remembered fondly by her many friends and co-workers here on earth. I was fortunate enough to have worked with her, traveled with her and love her like the sister I never had. It is so true: “ School Nurses are Angels in Disguise.”
Norma Nikkola MRC,BS,RN,LSN,FNASN