Obituary

Georgialee Trujillo

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HUBER HEIGHTS — Georgialee Hankins Turner Trujillo, 97, former long-time Huber Heights, Ohio, resident, died on October 14, 2017, in Maryland. She was born in 1920, in Williamson, West Virginia, to Verba (Phillips) and James Hankins. Verba's second husband, George B. Turner, was the man Georgialee knew as her father and she remained devoted to him throughout her life.

The Great Depression and life in small town West Virginia sparked a desire in Georgialee to succeed in life beyond her early circumstances. After graduating from Williamson High School in 1938, she earned a nursing diploma from the Williamson Memorial Hospital School of Nursing. In 1941, Georgialee took additional training at the Margaret Hague Maternity Hospital in Jersey City, New Jersey. This famous facility, across the river from Manhattan, gave Georgialee a taste of city life and sparked wanderlust to see more of the world.

Georgialee continued her nursing career at the Cook County Hospital in Chicago. She said Chicago had fabulous department stores. By then, Georgialee had become interested in anesthesia. Starting with "dropping ether" in nursing school, she loved the independence and responsibility that came with being in control of a patient's life in the operating room. It was an avocation and a world she would master.

Prior to the outbreak of WWII, Georgialee's bid to join the Army Nurse Corps was rejected, because she was too thin. After Pearl Harbor, however, she was readily accepted. On her way to boot camp in Wisconsin, she ran down the stairs to the train platform, and dropped her cardboard suitcase with the contents spilling down the stairs. A porter called out to her, but she kept on going, calling back over her shoulder, "It's okay, Uncle Sam will give me everything I need." Following boot camp, Second Lieutenant Hankins received additional training in Texas, and went on to San Francisco where, along with 200 other nurses, she boarded a troop ship for New Guinea.

Georgialee's year in New Guinea was exciting, fun, but full of the hardships of tent living. She honed her anesthesia skills at the 60th General Hospital, a tent compound she described as the original MASH unit. Although she surely saw the horrors of the war, she never spoke of it. While there, she met a young Army Lieutenant from New Mexico: Jesse Trujillo. For the next sixty years, their passionate relationship would dominate both their lives.

Back home and married to Jesse, the next 20 years of Georgialee's life was a whirlwind of family and relocations. Georgialee and Jesse lived in Cincinnati, Ohio, Ephrata, Pennsylvania, Jessup Georgia, North Augusta, South Carolina, Williamson, West Virginia, and finally, Dayton, Ohio. Through it all, Georgialee continued her nursing career. In the late 1950s, based on her considerable anesthesia experience, she was allowed to sit for the then newly required Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist examination, which she passed despite skepticism from her physician colleagues. Georgialee never took "no" for an answer. She was later honored by the Saint Joseph Hospital, School of Nursing Anesthesia, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, as the school's honorary first graduate, in recognition of her pioneering work as a Nurse Anesthetist. She was justifiably proud of her career accomplishments.

In the early 1960s, Jesse retired from the Army and the couple moved to Dayton, Ohio. Georgialee worked at the Miami Valley Hospital. A group of Miami Valley physicians, who were organizing a new venture (Kettering Anesthesia Associates, for the newly opened Kettering Memorial Hospital), invited Georgialee to join their practice. She agreed on the conditions that she be named the Chief Nurse Anesthetist and given a raise. Those conditions were met and Georgialee remained the Chief until her retirement in 1984. Her work was respected by everyone who worked with her. She was all business in the operating room, demanding professionalism, and getting it. Across her 43-year career, this no-nonsense nurse witnessed changes in medicine that started with ether and chloroform (common anesthetics first used just before the Civil War), to modern methods of intubation and heart-lung machines.

There was nothing "retiring" about Georgialee's post-nursing years. With the freedom to pursue what she'd previously considered "frivolous" activities, she proved herself an accomplished watercolorist, an antiques aficionado (and bargain hunter!), and a gifted gardener. She was an officer in the Till 'n Tell Garden Club in Huber Heights, and hosted many events for that group. As a member of the Officers' Wives Club at Wright Patterson Air Force Base, her hosting prowess was again unequaled. She became an avid student of history and current events, and delved into genealogy with a true passion. Her home was a showcase of Victorian antiques that belied its "Huber Home" exterior. Georgialee never did anything halfway.

She and Jesse traveled around the world – seeing far-flung places such as Paris, Morocco, and Hawaii to name a few. When Jesse became ill, Georgialee was by his side every day during his short terminal illness. Their life together was tumultuous and unpredictable – but their devotion to each other was a testament to the deep bond they shared. She was devastated by his death in 2004.

But Georgialee had journeyed alone before and it was not a surprise to anyone that she went on to make her way independently for the next 10 years. She made her "rounds" shopping at many Huber Heights businesses and had friends everywhere she went. Just after her 94th birthday, medical setbacks necessitated a move to Maryland to be closer to her daughter. Nonetheless, Georgialee faced the remaining years of her life with her usual spunk and feistiness. She always spoke her mind, sometimes with a startling directness that always contained a large measure of truth.

Georgialee was preceded in death by her beloved Jesse, her brother and his wife, James and Pauline Turner, and her sister and her husband, Cassie and B.R. Garnand. She leaves an indelible mark on her children: son Michael and wife Sharon of Virginia Beach, Virginia; daughters Suzanne of Lexington, Kentucky, and Patricia and husband Randy Campbell of Annapolis, Maryland. She is survived by her children, 6 grandchildren, and 12 great-grandchildren. She is also survived by nephew, Jim Turner and wife Linda of Kentucky, a cousin Tom Lowe and wife Judy, of Indiana, and close personal friends Larry and Kim Nash of Huber Heights. She is fondly remembered by many in Huber Heights and across the Greater Dayton area, who knew her generosity and spirit.

Georgialee will be interred with Jesse at Arlington National Cemetery at a later date. Her resting place will also be within a few steps of the man who commanded her unit in New Guinea. When she realized this remarkable coincidence - of knowing someone whose grave marker in an ocean of identical ones would be so close to hers - Georgialee was completely unfazed, and said, "Oh, I know him, that's old Buskirk."

The family thanks the dedicated staff at the Crofton Care and Rehabilitation Center, Crofton, Maryland, and the compassionate care of the staff of the Hospice of the Chesapeake. To honor and celebrate Georgialee's life, the family suggests donations to the Huber Heights Fire Department. She would like that. The Department's "Home Safe" program allowed Georgialee to remain independent and its members were truly her friends and protectors.


Published in Huber Heights Courier from Oct. 26 to Oct. 27, 2017
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