Sunday, July 18, 2004

Phyllis Schmitt, 66, was nurse with St. E.

She often helped those in poverty

By Chris Mayhew
Enquirer staff writer

COVINGTON - Growing up on a farm and watching her mother help her Campbell County neighbors by working as a midwife, Phyllis M. Schmitt found she had a knack for caring for others.

Ms. Schmitt, a resident of Covington's Latonia neighborhood and a registered nurse and wound-care specialist for 39 years at St. Elizabeth Medical Centers, died Wednesday at Rhea Medical Center in Dayton, Tenn. She was 66.

Ms. Schmitt entered the former St. Elizabeth School of Nursing when she was still a teenager, graduating in 1958, said Terry Foster, a longtime colleague who works at St. Elizabeth as a registered nurse and clinical specialist.

"She was extremely pro-patient," Foster said.

She focused many of her efforts on helping the patients being treated at St. Elizabeth's Covington hospital, who were poor, Foster said.

"If there were patients that were poor, Phyllis could always finagle ways to get equipment for free, and she very often went to a patient's home and helped them," Foster said.

Ms. Schmitt was the head nurse on a medical floor during the 1980s and formally trained physicians who were assigned to her, a rarity, Foster said.

Foster said it doesn't happen very often, but St. Elizabeth will hold a memorial service for her at a later date so that all the staff can attend.

"Her patients loved her. She did outpatient and in-patient care," said Rose Hook, retired vice president of nursing for St. Elizabeth. "She would drop everything to come in and help them. They would ask for her by name."

Ms. Schmitt didn't leave her work as a nurse at the office.

People from the neighborhood would knock at her door and she gave them medical advice and treated minor wounds and ailments, said her daughter, Jennie Collins of Taylor Mill.

"She was just a great all-around person, caring for her neighbors free of charge," Collins said. "She had a lot of compassion."

Collins said she remembers when her mother once donated money out of her own bank account to make sure the children of a patient she was treating at the hospital could have a Christmas.

When Ms. Schmitt was growing up on a farm in Melbourne, she went to people's homes with her mother, who was a midwife, Collins said.

Collins said her grandmother inspired her mother to do whatever you could for someone.

"Anyone who needed help, my grandma would take in and give them food and shelter," Collins said.

Collins said her mother took charge of the care of several of her relatives.

"She was always at people's bedsides to make sure they weren't alone," she said.

She belonged to the Rosie Reds and took her children to Opening Day and to spring training, Collins said. She was a member of Holy Cross Church in Latonia.

Collins said she always went out of her way to introduce people to her mother because she was such a good person who was filled with a great sense of humor and caring.

"She was a rock of our family. She took care of everyone," she said.

Surviving are two other daughters, Laura Remley of Taylor Mill, and Sharon Crabbs of Latonia; two sisters, Beatrice Kreyling of Knoxville, Tenn., and Susan Uebel Mazzaro of Melbourne, Ky.; a brother, Joe Uebel of Dayton, Ohio; and five grandchildren.

Visitation will be 4-8 p.m. Monday at Muehlenkamp-Erschell Funeral Home in Fort Thomas. Mass of Christian burial will be 11 a.m. Tuesday at Holy Cross Church in Latonia. Her remains will be cremated.

Memorials: Catholic Social Services Children's Program, 3612 Church St., Covington, KY 41015.


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