Teresa P. deKowzan, a registered nurse who during her 35-year career at Mercy Medical Center was supervisor of the delivery room and served as a mentor to young nurses, died Saturday of breast cancer at the Charlestown Retirement Community. She was 90.
"Teresa was an excellent nurse, and the patients always came first. She had a tremendous sense of humor and was very caring," said Joyce M. Hiebler, a Mercy Medical Center emergency room nurse and staffing officer who worked at the hospital for 45 years before retiring this year.
"She was a positive asset as a nurse at Mercy, and was always there and ran a tight ship," said Mrs. Hiebler.
"Teresa was just a wonderful person and a great nurse. You never heard a bad word out of her mouth about anyone," said Dolores J. Munafo, a retired nurse and former supervisor of the delivery room at Mercy, who was succeeded by Mrs. deKowzan. "She was great to work with and would do anything she could to help."
The daughter of Paul W. Lavin, a Connecticut State Police captain, and Blanche Lariviere Lavin, a homemaker, the former Teresa Pauline Lavin was born in Willimantic, Conn., and raised in Weathersfield, Conn.
One of Mrs. deKowzan's favorite childhood memories, family members said, was when she accompanied her father as he escorted aviator Charles Lindbergh on a triumphal parade through downtown Hartford, Conn.
"Lindbergh handed her a small bouquet of flowers that he had received during the ceremonies," said a son, Paul E. deKowzan of Lutherville.
After graduating from high school, Mrs. deKowzan earned her nursing degree in 1942 from the St. Francis Hospital School of Nursing in Hartford.
During World War II, she was commissioned a lieutenant in the Army Nurse Corps. While traveling across the Pacific Ocean aboard the hospital ship USS Stafford, World War II ended. She served with the 313th General Hospital in the Philippines and later in occupied Japan.
"She met her future husband, Army Lt. Jack deKowzan, at Fort Jackson, S.C., before being shipped overseas. They left Fort Jackson separately, not knowing the other's destination," said her son.
"In one of her letters to Jack, she mentioned visiting a Chinese cemetery. When he realized that the only such cemetery was located near his post in the Philippines, he went to the closest Army hospital and asked if she was there," her son said. "They were reunited and eventually became engaged. He always said he found the woman he loved in South Carolina, and had to follow her halfway around the world to get her to marry him."
The couple married in 1947. For years, they lived on Chinquapin Parkway and in Greenbelt after her husband, John E. "Jack" deKowzan, was appointed principal assistant state's attorney for Prince George's County.
After her children were grown, Mrs. deKowzan returned to nursing in the 1960s at what was then Mercy Hospital.
Mrs. deKowzan spent most of her career at Mercy Medical Center as supervisor of the delivery room. She had also had been night supervisor and, at the time of her retirement in the 1990s, was head nurse of the medical surgical floor.
"She inspired me and my sister to become nurses. When we were children, we'd play with her cap and clipboard. We loved pretending we were nurses," said a daughter, Mary E. Davidson, who lives in Otterbein and has been an emergency room nurse at Mercy since 1971.
"She was an extremely compassionate person and was the essence of being a nurse. Patient care came first as well as the safety and comfort of patients," said Ms. Davidson. "She was an inspiration to many nurses, and when she was night supervisor, she did more than direct traffic, she would talk to them."
Another daughter, Teresa A. King, who lives in Arbutus and nursed at Mercy for 25 years in the nursery and neonatal department, is now on the staff of Howard County General Hospital.
"I have great respect for my mother, and she taught me a lot. For example, if I got pulled up to the delivery room, she'd give me a scavenger list of things to find, which would come in handy during an emergency. And if I did anything wrong, she'd let me know, and I was really glad that she did," said Ms. King.
Ms. King added: "She ran that delivery room in a military fashion and people respected her for that."
She said her mother always had a willing ear and a supportive word for nurses.
"I would go to her and other nurses would when we had problems because we knew if we had to, we could cry on her shoulder," she said.
After retiring, Mrs. deKowzan and her husband, who died in 2002, spent summers at a second home they owned at Breezy Point in Calvert County.
An accomplished painter, Mrs. deKowzan enjoyed working in oils and watercolors. She also drew charcoal portraits and exhibited her work at art shows at Charlestown, where she had lived since 1998.
Mrs. deKowzan had been a communicant of St. Matthew Roman Catholic Church in Northwood.
A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at noon Wednesday at Our Lady of the Angels Chapel, 719 Maiden Choice Lane, Catonsville.
In addition to her son and two daughters, Mrs. deKowzan is survived by another son, John E. deKowzan Jr. of New Carrollton; another daughter, Jacqueline L. Forrester of Stewartstown, Pa.; seven grandchildren; and 11 great-grandchildren.