To a young girl born in Mobridge, South Dakota in 1922, the life of a stewardess was seen as exciting and glamorous…but there was a catch. In order to qualify as a stewardess, in those days you had to first become a registered nurse.
Undaunted, Barbara Caldwell Shay entered the Anker School of Nursing in Minneapolis, MN. She graduated at a dramatic point in this country’s history. The country was at war and several of her fellow graduates wore cadet uniforms to the graduation ceremony. In a letter written to her parents in May of 1944, Barbara said,
“The ceremony was impressive as 1500 student nurses marched in formation 8-across in a solid bank in front of the auditorium. The University of Minnesota band played “the Star Spangled Banner.” A number of national figures took part (by radio) to honor 96,000 cadets nation wide.”
Barbara’s eyes, however, were still on the skies and when she graduated, she found employment as a stewardess at Western Airlines. She travelled the country fulfilling her dream, but eventually Barbara wanted to settle down, marry and raise a family. She traded in her wings for work as a nurse. During the course of her nursing career, Barbara worked both as a hospital and then as a doctor’s nurse. Eventually, she worked for the county and, subsequently, served as a school nurse in Yuma, Arizona for many years.
Barbara was nothing if not loyal. She and her fellow nursing school classmates attended annual reunions for nearly 50 years, the last one ten years ago in Scottsdale. The nurses truly enjoyed each other’s company and loved to laugh and reminisce. Barbara was known for her sense of humor; she loved to have a great time!
How do you honor a woman such as this…full of life and profoundly dedicated to her profession? Her son, Dan Shay and his wife, Bobbi, felt Barbara would be pleased to know a scholarship was established in her name which encouraged young people to enter the field of nursing. To that end, the Shays created the Barbara Shay Memorial Nursing Scholarship at the Arizona Community Foundation of Yuma. Graduating students from Kofa and Cibola High Schools who are accepted in the Arizona Western College nursing program as full-time students, may apply for this scholarship.