Her Life

The Early Days

Tina was born October 11, 1937 to Veronica (Cheney) and Albert Cote.  Franklin Delano Roosevelt was the President, and the United States was still in the Great Depression.  Tina had an astounding memory, and spoke of her early days with family and in school.  The picture of Mom, sister Paula and parents Veronica and Albert was taken on the night before Albert went off to war, according to an inscription in Grammy Veronica's handwriting on one copy of this photo.

One wonderful story from Tina's childhood just came to light for Tina a few years ago ~ an old schoolmate from Marlborough reached out to Tina and thanked her for her kindness as a child.  Apparently Tina did not join in the teasing that other children inflicted, and even shared her paper dolls with her!  You know who you are, friend, and thank you for sharing your memory, and for the beautiful poem you wrote for Tina.  Thus began a lifetime of seeing the value in all people, and a desire to care for and help others.

A Young Woman Takes on the World (or at least the Northeast!)

Tina graduated as valedictorian from Marlborough High School in 1955, and at age 18 entered the Mary Hitchcock Memorial Hospital School of Nursing in Hanover in 1958 to begin a long and dedicated career in nursing and public health. 

In those days, training was intensive and hands-on from the very beginning. Tina recalls being given the responsibility of caring for patients right away!  One memory was of taking care of a patient in an “iron lung,” who turned out to be the last person affected with polio to be treated in Hanover. Her training provided a number of rotations at Hitchcock affiliated hospitals including Concord State Hospital, Boston Children’s Hospital, Boston Children’s Cancer Research Foundation (later Dana Farber Cancer Institute), the world renowned teaching hospital for Harvard Medical School Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital, and Boston Lying In where she “loved caring for the babies” in obstetrics.

After earning her RN cap and pin she worked at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Brighton in the outpatient care unit. She has fond memories of living along the Fenway in Boston with other young nurses, where they would walk to work, community events, and to church in Roxbury on Sundays, without feeling afraid or threatened in these areas.  She recently reflected, “I remember all the wonderful people, excellent career training, and what an adventure it was for a young woman from a small town to be in the big city.”

Becoming a Wife and Mom

After five years in Boston, and the birth of her son Tad in 1963, she and first husband Thomas Dwyer moved to Hartford CT where she worked nights at St. Francis Hospital in West Hartford which she recalled as “a beautiful Catholic hospital with a large chapel where I would often visit after my shift before going home.”

Two years later the young family moved back to NH, settled in Keene and welcomed daughter Lesley.  Recently Tina said that “My greatest joy ever was to raise my children and to do my best to create a good life through the ups and downs.”  Purchasing the little white house on Mayflower Drive was one of her proudest accomplishments.  Tina said that she went to an open house, knew instantly that this home would provide some security and a "real home," so she went to her credit union and borrowed $1,500 for a down payment!  I can safely say this act of bravery and determination saved us.

A Career of Caring

Tina continued her nursing career in Keene at Elliot Community Hospital and in 1973 at the new Cheshire Medical Center ICU, at the private practice of Dr. James Ballou, at Keene State College Infirmary, and finally at Maplewood Nursing Home. 

After her retirement from Maplewood Nursing Home, Tina continued to serve in the community and care for others.  She was the Town of Marlborough Health Inspector for 12 years, acted as Interim Administrator of the Carpenter Home in Swanzey for a summer, worked with the Wellness Program at Southwestern Community Services, and taught LNA courses through the Red Cross. Tina was able to retain her RN credentials well into her 70s.  She stayed in touch with many of her friends and colleagues from her career, and up until the end enjoyed going out to lunch and staying in touch with "the ladies."  Please know, friends, how much your calls, letters and visits meant to Tina!

Some of the loveliest (and proudest!) stories that Tad and I could share include those from the many people who reflected on how much Tina's teaching meant to them.  One story is from Chris Bause who, the day after Mom passed away, shared a memory of Tina who was his LNA teacher.  He recalled that there was a young woman in the class for whom English was her second language.  Chris said that Tina would spend extra time studying with this student to ensure that she would pass the class with skill and confidence.  Tina would never have shared this herself, so thank you Chris for this wonderful story.

The Marlborough Years, Take Two!

Tina’s marriage to Fred in 1985 brought Tina full circle back to Marlborough. Tina was a wonderful chef and baker, and she and Fred loved to host and entertain family and friends at the home Fred built, which had a beautiful view of Mt. Monadnock.

During this time Tina became a grandmother, another beloved role.  She was never too busy to stop what she was doing to listen to or play with her grandchildren.  I will never forget the sight of her down on the kitchen floor banging on pots and pans with Grace, while the kitchen was bustling with people and food and chaos during one holiday or another!  She and Fred prioritized attending many dance, sport, and school events in support of her grandchildren, across three states! 

Together Fred and Tina traveled throughout the US and the world including to Fred’s homeland Switzerland, Peru, China, and several countries in Africa.  Tina always had a desire to join the Peace Corps, although that was never in the cards for her, I know that she loved these travels that allowed her to learn about people and cultures and traditions far and wide.

Most importantly, her marriage to Fred brought her daughter Sonya into her life.  Tina and Sonya were truly kindred spirits.  Known to Sonya as “Honey,” Tina always appreciated Sonya’s capacity, creativity and humor, and was always a strong advocate on Sonya’s behalf.  Tina had such appreciation for the people from MDS and New Hope New Horizons who have been steadfast for many years in supporting Sonya to have a good life.  Suzanne, Shay and Andrea in particular, I hope you know how much peace Mom felt knowing that you continue to advocate for and care about Sonya.  Thank you!

A Life Well Lived

In early 2018 Tina and Fred moved to American House in Keene for the winter.  After Fred passed away in May 2018, Tina remained in her “nest” at American House where she found a new sense of independence as well as camaraderie.  She enjoyed meeting new people, participating in events and activities, and acting as a welcoming mentor for new residents. 

In the last few years, both Tad and I have been able to spend such quality time with Mom.  One of my favorite recent memories was making Tina's cat costume for a skit she joined with friends from American House.  We spent many hours together chatting, lamenting over the state of politics in the US, doing errands, going to appointments, and just connecting. 

Tina was admired by many for her ability to remain positive, and to care for others even though many wished she would care for herself a bit more.  It is no secret that Tina had myriad health issues over many years.  Her ability to recover and rise above was remarkable, and as Tad described, "heroic!"  Just four days before she passed away, Tina was advising Grace about how to take blood pressure, and the best type of stethoscope to buy.  Tina loved visits from Julie and Reggie, and was so appreciative that Paula came for a visit from Texas last month! 

Toward the end of her life as her health rapidly declined, she was able to reconnect with several of the LNAs she trained and see them in action.  She was able to direct her own care plan with Southwest Community Services Hospice, and appreciated the experience of Thomas and the hospice organization.  Tina was full of admiration and appreciation for the skilled and compassionate care provided to her by American House staff, and Tad and I will be forever grateful for their amazing care of Tina, and their support for us during that last week.

Tina's last day, Sunday March 22nd, was a beautiful, sunny, warm Spring day.  We streamed the Vatican's service from St. Peter's Basilica, listened to bird songs and hymns, and enjoyed the sunshine.  Pictures of grandchildren and Sonya, and a vase of beautiful yellow roses (Tina's favorite!) were by her side.  Though it was a sad day, it was also strangely beautiful, and we know Tina is in peace.  

"It is well with my soul"