TURNERS FALLS - Donald J. Collette, 79, of Canal Street, died Wednesday (11-28-12) at Baystate Franklin Medical Center in Greenfield.
He was born on Dec. 15, 1932 in Montague City, the son of Joseph A. and Mary E. (Tierney) Collette. The family moved to Millers Falls in 1942, where he attended Highland School and Turners Falls High School, graduating in 1950.
He was employed as a mail clerk at the GTD and in 1951 was hired as an orderly at the former Franklin County Public Hospital. In 1953, he attended the former Gardner State Hospital of Practical Nursing and graduated in 1954 at a licensed practical nurse. He returned to FCPH as an LPN in the ER and GU Clinic. In 1957, he received a scholarship to the former Worcester City Hospital School of Nursing, graduating as a registered nurse in 1960. He returned to FCPH and was head nurse on 1st South and then administrate supervisor.
In 1962, he was commissioned as a 2nd Lt. in the USAF and spent three years with the 804th (SAC) Medical Group at Grand Forks AFB in North Dakota. He was promoted to 1st Lt. in December of 1962 and in 1972, while in the reserves, he was promoted to captain.
Upon his discharge from active duty in 1965, he returned to Worcester, as an administrative assistant at St. Vincent's Hospital on the 11-7 shift. At that time, St. Vincent's Hospital was a 600-bed facility and he was responsible for all areas of the hospital, reporting directly to the administrator.
In 1969, he was promoted to assistant director of nursing for management and systems. In 1970, he was promoted to director of the Department of Nursing. Mr. Collette was the first lay person, as well as the first male nurse, to ever hold that position at St. Vincent's. On March 28, 1971, he was the subject of a cover story and two-page article in the Worcester Sunday Telegram Magazine's "Feature Parade." The article was in recognition of his appointment and career.
During his tenure at St. Vincent's, he was a charter member and chairman of the Worcester County Organization of Nurse Executives, the Massachusetts Organization of Nurse Executives, the American Organization of Nurse Executives and the Massachusetts Nurses Association. He was elected to the Board of Directors of the Massachusetts Nurses Association three times and served on numerous committees. He was elected delegate to the American Nurses Association Biennial Convention seven times. He was also a member of the American Hospital Association and Mass. Hospital Association and served on the council of nursing.
In 1974, Mr. Collette was appointed to the position of Associate Director, Nursing Administration at the former Worcester Hahnemann Hospital. During his tenure there, he took the first National Certificate exam for nurse administrators and received his certificate as a nurse administrator from the American Academy of Nursing of the American Nurses Association in 1980.
After 15 years at Worcester Hahnemann Hospital, the facility merged and most management personnel were laid off. In 1990, he was hired as a supervisor at Blaire House of Worcester, an Alzheimer's facility. He left in 1995 and returned to Millers Falls. For several years he worked as a part-time supervisor at the Farren Care Center before retiring in 1998 for health reasons.
Mr. Collette was listed in the Marquis "Who's Who" editions of 1981-1982 and 1985-86, "Who's Who in American Nursing" in 1988-89 and "Who's Who in Contemporary Nursing" in 1983-87. He was an associate member of the FCPH Nurses Alumni Association and the Worcester City Hospital School of Nursing Alumni Association. He was also a member of the American Legion Post 81 and the AARP.
His hobbies included gourmet cooking, gardening, dogs, travel and reading.
He leaves a brother, Francis and his wife Chung Hui of Montague; two sisters, Rose Ciborowski and her husband Paul of Agawam and Mary Lou VanValkenburgh and her husband Daniel of Millers Falls, and numerous cousins, nieces, nephews grandnieces and grandnephews.
Funeral services will be held Monday (12-3-12) at 11 a.m. at the Kostanski Funeral Home, 1 Kostanski Square, Turners Falls.
Calling hours will be Sunday (12-2-12) from 1 to 4 p.m. at the funeral home.
Burial will be Tuesday (12-4-12) at 2 p.m. at the Massachusetts Veterans' Memorial Cemetery in Agawam.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Millers Falls Library Children's Fund, 11 Bridge St., Millers Falls, MA 01349.
Sympathy message available at: www.kostanskifuneralhome.com.