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Sister Elizabeth Anne Corcoran, nursing director at Mercy Hospital, dies

Sister Elizabeth Anne Corcoran, who for many was the face of Mercy Medical Center where she served as nursing director, died of heart disease Wednesday at Stella Maris Hospice in Timonium. She was 88.

“She taught us to welcome patients, families and visitors with courtesy, respect and compassion,” said Tom Mullen, the hospital’s president. “In her heart, she was always a nurse and inspired young nurses to continue Mercy’s 144-year legacy of quality care.

“She embodied the mission and values of the Sisters of Mercy and was an extraordinary role model for all of us,” he said. “Her spirit was part of the very fabric of the hospital. She could kid around with everyone — from the laundry people to the board members. She moved into the hospital in 1965 and didn’t leave until a few weeks ago.”

Born Joan Daily Corcoran in Baltimore and raised on Calvert Street in Charles Village, she was the daughter of J. Neil Corcoran, an attorney for Baltimore Gas and Electric, and his wife, Elizabeth “Bess” Daily. She attended Saints Philip and James School.

She enrolled in the Mercy Hospital School of Nursing and became a registered nurse in 1951. She had a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Mount Saint Agnes College. She received a master’s degree from Notre Dame of Maryland University.

She entered the Sisters of Mercy in 1953 and took her religious name to honor her mother.

Her aunt, Sister Veronica Daily, was a Mercy Hospital administrator. Her sibling, Sister Mary Neil Corcoran, had been director of the Esperanza Center in Fells Point from 1990 to 2002.

Mark R. Fetting, a cousin, recalled a family story that as a student, Sister Elizabeth Anne found studying chemistry to be a challenge and sought help from a Jesuit priest, Father Vincent Beatty.

“After she passed the course, he celebrated with a shot of whiskey he kept in a secret bookshelf,” said Mr. Fetting, the former chief executive officer at Legg Mason.

Assigned in 1955 to what was then Mercy Hospital, she was a floor nurse, instructor and supervisor. After several years in Baltimore, she was transferred to Atlanta, where she served as a nursing instructor at St. Joseph’s Infirmary.

In 1965 she returned to Mercy Hospital and established enduring friendships with the hospital’s patient, professional and administrative community.

“We once had the two top floors of the hospital as a convent,” said her colleague, Sister Helen Amos, chair of the Mercy Board of Trustees. “But as we closed it, Sister Elizabeth Anne decided to stay here. We fixed up an apartment for her in the hospital. She felt it was her duty to stay on here.”

Sister Elizabeth Anne was assistant director of nursing from 1965 to 1975, when she became nursing director.

Mr. Fetting, a Mercy trustee, said, “Sister Elizabeth Anne was without a doubt the face of Mercy Medical Center. She stood strong, strong to her family and strong to her patients.”

Colleagues said Sister Elizabeth Anne established a friendship and working relationship with her mentor Sister Mary Thomas Zinkand, the former Mercy president who retired in 1992.

“They were a dynamic one-two management punch team during their time leading the hospital,” said Sister Helen Amos.

Sister Elizabeth Anne was named vice president of nursing in 1987 and remained in that role until 1989.

A hospital biography notes that after her career in nursing, Sister Elizabeth Anne was named assistant to the president for hospitality, in charge of Mercy’s conference facilities and Information desk personnel.

“After a long and illustrious career in nursing, including years as Mercy’s chief nurse, Sister Elizabeth Anne accepted a new role in which she modeled and trained others to practice Mercy’s core value of hospitality,” said Sister Helen Amos. “It was a responsibility that was perfectly suited to her personality.”

In 2010 the hospital named its restaurant, the Corcoran Café, in her honor. She became know as Mercy’s “Queen of Hospitality.”

After taking an elevator down from her apartment in the hospital, her routine included going to the admissions desk and scanning the list of those who had been admitted. She called on patients and greeted their families.

“She personified what is written on the hospital’s door: ‘The Sisters of Mercy welcome you,’” said Sister Helen Amos.

A Mass of Christian burial will be held at 10 a.m. Tuesday at Stella Maris Chapel, 2300 Dulaney Valley Road.

Survivors include a brother, J. Clark Corcoran of Timonium; and many nieces and nephews. Her sister died in 2017.

jacques.kelly@baltsun.com

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