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A heroine to her children, an inspiration to countless others to whose lives she has touched.
Linda Lee Wyckoff was born in her parent's home in Des Moines on March 2, 1942. She would live in that house for the first nine years of her life - and live she did. A pretty, outgoing child with a great imagination, she was notorious for entertaining friends and the neighbors along South Lawn Drive. In 1951, her father and mother, Paul and Eileen, sold the house that they had built ten years prior and moved to a farm near Cincinnati, Iowa. The farm taught her the value of hard work and determination. In 1956, her father leased out the farm and moved the family to Gilman, Iowa. By now, the pretty girl was quickly developing into a beautiful young woman. She was popular with her classmates and turned the heads of many young men, including Leo Altemeier of Newburg, who was also admiring the All Stater's tenacity on the basketball court. She soon fell in love with the young man and like most teenage girls in 1957, dreamed of one day marrying the man she loved and having his children. An unplanned pregnancy lead to her marriage to Leo on November 23, 1958, while in her senior year at Gilman High School. She graduated with her class in the spring of 1959 but because of her marital status was stripped of all honors, including class valedictorian and the right to attend commencement ceremonies.
Three children were born out of Leo and Linda's often turbulent marriage: Tammy in 1959, Tonya in 1962, and Todd in 1964. She never fully recovered from her pregnancy with Todd and in January 1965 was taken to University Hospitals in Iowa City where she was given little chance for survival. She would spend the next two years in and out of Iowa City, enduring numerous surgeries and fighting for her life. She beat the odds through her strong will and faith that God would allow her to raise her children.
She came home from Iowa City only to find that at age 23 her marriage was over and she had the responsibility of raising her children alone. Knowing that education was the key to her future, she put aside her pride and accepted public aid which would allow her to return to school. She enrolled at Centerville Community College to prepare for the University of Iowa School of Nursing. A prerequisite mix-up for the U of I led to her enrollment in the Mercy Hospital School of Nursing in Des Moines in September 1968. She cared for her three young children, managed the household chores, took various odd work for money, and fought through further health complications from her 1965 illness, all the while carrying the same class load as a typical full-time student. She graduated in 1971 with her Registered Nurse diploma.
Linda then began her career as a registered nurse. With memories of her long illness in Iowa City still strong in her mind, she cared for her patients with unparalleled kindness and commitment. In 1975, she attended the M.D. Anderson Cancer & Tumor Institute in Houston, Texas, to specialize in the relatively new field of Enterstomal Therapy. The hardest part of the training was being away from her family - her children being left in the care of her second husband, Ron Chartier, to whom she had married on November 28, 1970. Her status as a CETN allowed her to care for people with ostomies and abnormal skin conditions. The work was not easy since, often her patients were terminal with cancer, AIDS, or other diseases. She shared her love, enthusiasm, prayers, and inspiration with each patient. It was not uncommon to see her hold the hand, touch the forehead, or verbally console a patient - even a patient in an unconscious state.
She took time out from her career in 1977 to have her fourth child, Melissa. Typical of the time, two incomes were needed to make ends meet, so Linda once again went back to touching the lives of her patients.
Most of all, she touched the lives of her children. She rarely compromised her sense of right and wrong and instilled this type of value system within each of her children. She shared her faith in God and strived to be an example of a good Christian person. She taught her children to believe in themselves and the value of education and honest work.
Always proud to be woman, Linda touched the world with her energy, style, physical beauty, and kind soul. Her life was not easy, but she endured - no matter what challenges lie ahead. She is honored here for her strength and determination for doing her part to advance the equality of women, for making mistakes and learning from them, and for making her world better place to live. We her children love her dearly. Thank you, Mom.
Tammy, Tonya, Todd, & Melissa