Juanita Gliniak

Registered nurse nurtured countless patients, children

January 02, 2011|By ALICIA NOTARIANNI |
  • Juanita Gliniak wears her nursing uniform around the time she graduated from South Baltimore General Hospital with the Cadet Nurse Corps in this picture taken in the early 1940s.
Submitted photo

“Life is not a matter of counting the years, it’s a matter of making the years count.”

Juanita Gliniak kept a plaque with this adage hanging on the wall in her home. Perhaps it inspired her. Or maybe it was just a celebration of her inherent style. But those who knew her attest that she did, indeed, make her years count.

Juanita was born in 1921 in Ridgeway, W.Va. Her only child, Emily Hobby, 57, of Hagerstown, called Juanita “a Depression child.”

“She had two pairs of socks — one on her feet and one to wash. She washed a pair every night,” Emily said. “She told stories about how her family ate beans for dinner a lot.”

Though Juanita’s parents struggled to provide for a family of three, they took in her biological cousin, Donald Grove, when his parents were unable to care for him. Juanita was 10 at the time.

“She had been an only child, then all of the sudden, they got a baby,” Emily said. “She loved him dearly until the day she died.”

At one point, Donald was poised to return to his biological parents.

“Mom told the story of how she stayed up all night on her knees by her bed praying he would stay,” Emily said. “Later, she remembered seeing her parents coming up the lane from her bedroom window with Donald still in her arms.”

Her parents officially adopted Donald, and Juanita took it upon herself to look after him. That experience was pivotal in two major areas of Juanita’s life, Emily said — her faith, and her desire to nurture and care for others.

Work with Potomac Edison led Juanita’s father to move the family to Hagerstown, where Juanita took a job at a five-and-dime store. As a young woman, she never lacked suitors, Emily said.

“We found pictures of many unknown servicemen. But only one man stole her heart, and that was my dad, ‘Stan,’” she said.

Stanley Gliniak was a Marine and “quite a charmer,” Emily’s mother had told her.

Juanita sold neckties and Stan bought them. A lot of them.

“For you see, as long as you were a customer and you were buying neckties, you could talk to the salesgirls,” Emily said. “My dad told mom that he was buying the neckties for his brothers. But later, she found out he was polishing his boots with the ties.”

When Juanita heard of an opportunity to work her way toward a more comfortable lifestyle, she seized it. She completed her studies at Hagerstown High School, then in 1946, she graduated from South Baltimore General Hospital with the Cadet Nurse Corps.

“She’d always wanted to be a nurse,” Emily said. “Then, she realized she could get her RN and it wouldn’t cost her family anything. That was a major draw.”

Juanita’s career included practicing nursing at Fairchild Aircraft, with the late Dr. James Dwyer, and at Guilford Convalareum in Chambersburg, Pa., until her retirement in 1983, Emily said.

Juanita set her career aside for a time, though, when Emily was born in 1957. Stan worked long hours as a union sheet-metal worker and a barber, and Juanita poured herself into caring for Emily.

“Mom and I were more like sisters than mother and daughter,” Emily said. “My dad’s work just threw my mom and me together from my earliest memory.”

Juanita became involved with Washington County Homemakers and other similar organizations.

“She learned and loved the fine art of homemaking. She called it gracious living,” Emily said. “It didn‘t matter if you were having steamers and Jell-O salad. You still set the table properly and ate with napkins on your lap.”

When Emily went away to college, her mother wrote her a letter every day.

“I was the envy of all of my roommates,” she said. “My best friend wrote me every day.”

After Stan died in the early ’90s, Emily, who had become a single mother, and her children moved in with Juanita.

“There was no traveling in retirement for my mom. She was a parent to my three children,” Emily said. “She ran carpools, took them to activities, was always available to stay home with a sick child.”

And the favor didn’t extend only to Emily’s children, but to their friends. Juanita baked cookies, cut up fresh fruits and vegetables, and welcomed children in after school to start their homework.

“People would say, ‘You should claim these kids on your income tax, they spend so much time here.’ (Juanita) would say, ‘No, I just love having them here,’” Emily said. “Many young women stood up at the funeral service and gave testimonies about how my mom had altered their lives. They loved her and she loved them.”

Later in life, Juanita reached out to others as a Girl Scout leader and as a volunteer at an area nursing home. Most recently, she made comfort dolls to give to children in traumatic situations.

Emily said she wonders “how in the world” she got Juanita for a mom.

“When the Lord could’ve given her to anybody else, and he gave her to me. She was phenomenal,  extraordinary,” she said.

Editor’s note: Each Sunday, The Herald-Mail runs “A Life Remembered.” Each story in this continuing series takes a look back — through the eyes of family, friends, co-workers and others — at a member of the community who died recently. Today’s “A Life Remembered” is about Juanita Luween Gliniak, who died Dec. 16 at the age of 89. Her obituary was published in the Dec. 18 edition of The Herald-Mail.

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