Day 3: “They can find me.” Peggy Weber, St. Mary’s Parish Nurse & Parish Nurse Program Coordinator
It’s difficult to write about Peggy Weber’s impact on patients, survivors and their families without drawing on symbolism and cliché. But it’s just so easy—and honestly, so fitting—to describe her as “an angel from heaven,” “a pillar of faith,” “the Mother Theresa of Madison,” or, in the kind words of someone whom Peggy has supported through several family tragedies, “the pot of gold at the end of everyone’s rainbow.” When life is a struggle, or when the worst happens and it’s time to say goodbye to our loved ones, cliché is comforting—and it’s a simple, beautiful way to articulate Weber’s deeply genuine commitment to everyone she cares for.
And if a record twenty-three nominations for “Madison’s Favorite Nurse” doesn’t reflect the depth and breadth of her work, a walk through St. Mary’s Hospital, where Weber was educated and where she has spent most of her forty-one-year career, or a visit to Sunday Mass at St. Patrick’s in Cottage Grove certainly does.
Weber jokes about it but it’s true—after it began to take too long to make her way out of church every week, her husband switched from waiting patiently in the car to bringing along the Sunday paper to giving up and taking a separate vehicle. But Peggy doesn’t mind; it’s simply the nature of her work. “Nursing is such an art and science,” she says. “It’s the art of relationships,” adding, “Most nurses—we’re wired to do this.”
That ability to communicate, to connect with people during their most difficult and painful times, is a strength that she has nurtured and grown into a remarkable outreach arm for St. Mary’s, including an ongoing support program called Kids Can Cope that she founded in 1985, the Parish Nurse program started in 1997 and the cancer survivors group she facilitates once a month at St. Patrick’s. “Sometimes I walk into work and I don’t know what’s happening,” Peggy says of her job as a St. Mary’s Parish Nurse & Parish Nurse Program Coordinator. “I immediately have to relate to [patients and families] and build their trust.” It’s that trust, she says, that helps us work through the frightening experience of death and dying. “The more they can replace that fear with trust, the more calm they’ll be.”
For Peggy, that trust she builds with people extends beyond the walls of hospital and church—and for as long as God intends.
“I go to almost every wake and funeral I can because it helps me and it helps them. I don’t abandon people. They can find me,” she says, with a steely look in her eyes that tells me she means it absolutely and without condition. “They can find me.”
For all of this strength, knowledge, warmth and compassion, Peggy very humbly credits the Sisters of St. Mary, thirty years of experience in the field of psychiatry and two very special nurse mentors, Carol Viviani and Barbara Komoroske, among others. For her faith and spirituality, she thanks her German Lutheran father and Roman Catholic mother.
“I grew up with an incredible spirit in my home,” she says.
Today, Peggy’s incredible spirit is evident in her own home where she, along with her husband Jim, is blessed with four children and soon-to-be eleven grandchildren.
“So what’s next?” I ask her. “What else?” she answers back.
“When you love what you do and it’s the most favorite thing you do, why would you want to quit?”