Nurse with ties to valley honored

By Kim Walter

Now 21 years since her passing, Mary Jane McCone has been inducted into the Virginia Nursing Hall of Fame.

Although she was born in California in June 1889, McCone wound up in the Shenandoah Valley, where she led the nursing program at Winchester Memorial Hospital for more than 20 years. She was also instrumental in bringing the School of Nursing program to Shenandoah University, which recently celebrated its 50th anniversary.

After graduating from the Winchester Memorial Hospital School of Nursing in 1930, McCone continued her postgraduate education and eventually went on to work at Johns Hopkins Hospital in operating room management, according to the Hall of Fame website.

Five years later, McCone was called back to the area to direct nursing at the hospital. In 1938, she became the director of the School of Nursing as well.

At age 43, McCone decided to join the U.S. Army Nurse Corps and served with the 8th Evacuation Hospital, according to Jennifer Matthews, professor of nursing at Shenandoah University.

Matthews was assigned the task of gathering information and evidence that would ensure McCone’s induction into the Hall of Fame.

In doing her research, Matthews found that during the three years McCone was involved in World War II, she moved her “hospital” 72 times, and traveled more than 2,500 miles in Africa, Germany, France and Italy.

“She was in the thick of some huge campaigns,” Matthews said of McCone. “I’ve heard that she once described her hospital tent as looking like Swiss cheese because of bombings.”

Because of her service, Matthews said McCone came home in 1946 with three bronze battle stars and a bronze star for merit achievement.

“These aren’t things that many women earned in World War II,” Matthews added.

McCone went on to join and become president of the Virginia State Board of Nurse Examiners for three years. Matthews said she also received the Virginia Nurses Association’s most distinguished award — the Nancy Vance Pin — in 1952.

Years later, in 1990, McCone received the first ever Chief Nurse Award that continues to be presented by the U.S. Public Health Service.

It was because of McCone’s involvement with the State Board that she pushed for the School of Nursing to transition out of the hospital and instead onto the Shenandoah College’s campus.

“Ms. McCone was responsible for supervising the regulations that govern nursing, and she was on top of all the happenings in the nursing world,” Matthews said. “She was truly working behind the scenes to get the nursing school here, and look where we are today.”

Since, the school has created the Mary Jane McCone Award for Practice Excellence.

Matthews said it meant a lot to her to be a part of getting McCone into the Hall of Fame. She said she enjoyed speaking with alumni of the Winchester Memorial Hospital School of Nursing who actually knew McCone.

“She educated so many, and now her legacy lives on,” she said. “She really was a nurse’s nurse … I think all of us here are very proud to be connected, even in a small way, to this amazing woman.”

McCone is just one of 24 inductees into the Hall of Fame, which was founded in 2001 and is maintained by Virginia Commonwealth University.

For more information on McCone, go to www.library.vcu.edu/tml/speccoll/vnfame/mccone.html.

Contact staff writer Kim Walter at 540-465-5137 ext. 191, or kwalter@nvdaily.com