Jacqueline Wouwenberg, 93
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Jacqueline Jeanne Wouwenberg “Jackie” was born in Fair Lawn, New Jersey on November 6, 1925 and left this earth on January 19, 2019. Answering a placard in NYC to “Be A Nurse”, and anxious to rise out of poverty, she graduated from New York City Bellevue School of Nursing in 1947. She was a member of the US Public Health Service Cadet Nurse Corps. Jackie always said that her training at Bellevue taught her that all deserved equal treatment.
Soon after graduating she answered the call to become a Red Cross nurse, to serve in the polio epidemic in Los Angeles, CA. As a Red Cross nurse she cared for many hundreds of victims in iron lungs, many of whom, young and old, succumbed to this now conquered disease, at least in the U.S. As a national expert in polio she returned to New Jersey to countless offers to help those in similar circumstances. She chose instead to provide private duty nursing to polio victims one at a time.
One such young and beautiful polio victim, Elaine, became the sole poster person for disabled travel, and Jackie became her travel nurse. This travel “marketing campaign” was concocted by the father (Editor of the Bergen Record) of Elaine and a Senior leadership executive in the airline industry, to prove that the disabled could travel. Born out of love for a daughter looking to travel and a man looking to expand airline industry business, Elaine and Jackie traveled the country, including Anchorage, where each destination was met with flowers, a party and a press conference. In San Francisco they were hosted by Anna Roosevelt, who was seeking advice on therapies for her father, FDR.
After more polio work, Jackie needed a break and sought something quite the opposite of disease and death for a time. She auditioned, and was selected to be a showgirl at the Copacabana Night Club in NYC. She danced every night with fruit on her head, which she attributes to her good posture. After a short stint, she went with two other showgirls to join a similar club in Cuba. Soon thereafter, an executive from the Hercules Powder Company (munitions) from Wilmington DE, spotted her and warned her of the current dangers of Cuba and that she should depart. Heeding his advice, she secretly met him early the next morning where he brought her back in his executive jet (with other undisclosed guests she was advised not to talk to) to Teterboro airport, New Jersey. It was then that her dancing career ended, until which time she joined a tap dance group in her 50s and 60s called the Happy Hoffers. The audience consisted more of people in wheelchairs than men with big cigars.
Back into nursing, and a wanderlust at heart, she joined the Air Force in the early 50’s to “see the world.” She told the recruiter that her choice for deployment was Hawaii, and with that was sent to Ellsworth Air Force Base in Rapid City, South Dakota. Adjusted as she was, she eventually ran the whole maternal child wing, including the newborn nursery, stating she had the magic to sooth any crying baby in record time. There she eventually met her future husband and married him in Meridian, Mississippi, where he was stationed (still NOT Hawaii!) Eventually, a little girl was conceived and within 6 months, the time it took for Jackie to start showing, she had to regrettably leave the Air Force. No pregnant women allowed.
The next several decades brought her a son, a move to Florida and a blissful two decades as the wife of a small business owner, mother, nurse and every weekend beach goer. The loss of her son through death and husband through divorce eventually moved her into the Hassmiller home permanently where she once again blissfully enjoyed life and helped to raise her grandchildren, Kim and Mark. Dancing, acting, traveling, and watercolor painting became her hobbies. She has since won many ribbons for her artwork and has always chosen who she paints for instead of them choosing her.
She led an active life of travel and adventure, always knew what she wanted and never took no for an answer to get it. She had boundless energy, little respect for rules, loved all people and ate ice cream every single day of her life, as a way of celebrating that day. She loved her car and driving aimlessly, without necessarily a plan or a map and loved wherever the journey brought her. She lived in the moment. She got to Hawaii.
Jackie was predeceased by her treasured son Larry, who died in 1985 and amazing and devoted son-in-law, Robert Hassmiller, who died in 2016. Jackie is survived by her daughter, Susan Hassmiller and the biggest Grandma Jackie devotee of all, her grandson Mark Hassmiller. She is also survived by her loving granddaughter Kimberly Hassmiller Oley, her husband Matt Oley and her two great grandchildren, Abigail, 5 and John, 2.
The family will receive friends and family on Saturday, January 26 from 11:00 to 12:30p, with a short memorial service starting at 11:30am at Barlow & Zimmer Funeral Home. The address of the funeral home is 202 Stockton Street, Hightstown, NJ, 08520 and the phone number is 609-448-3456. Jackie requested that people NOT wear black to her “funeral”, rather colorful, bright and cheery attire is welcomed.
A military honors ceremony will be held at Brigadier General William C. Doyle Memorial Cemetery to honor her military service, the following day for family members only.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the American Red Cross for the Hassmiller Nursing Scholarship Endowment. Those gifts can be sent to 707 Alexander Rd., Princeton, NJ 08540, Att. Lisa Kurtz.