|Honored by:||Tom, Zora, Anna & Elizabeth Zimmerman|
|Brick location:||F:23 map|
Known for her calm, nurturing manner, limitless patience and dedication to helping others, Velma Ruth Siegrist Zimmerman exemplifies the ideal nurse. For more than 50 years, Velma has meant the difference between healing and suffering for countless patients, friends and family. Although she retired as Director of Nursing at the Hearthstone Nursing Center in St. John, Kansas in 1986, Velma still returns to consult and substitute when needed.
She is a pillar of strength in the community, loved and respected by all who have known her caring touch. In February 2002, Velma was honored by being named Citizen of the Year by the Lions Club of St. John, Kansas. Petite, dark-haired with large luminous brown eyes and boundless energy, Velma is a familiar figure in St. John, the capital of Stafford County and the town in which she has spent almost 52 years of her life.
She was born in 1917 in rural Hutchinson, Kansas - the sixth of 10 children. Her parents, Alpha Siegrist and Hazel Urdine Glass Siegrist, farmed in the area. Through the first eight grades Velma attended a country school then the high school in Hutchinson. She graduated in 1934, decided upon a nursing career and entered a junior college for one year. The following year she was admitted into the nurse's training program at Grace Methodist Hospital in Hutchinson.
The following years were difficult and challenging: in 1936, an infection took the life of her eldest brother and in 1939, her mother died suddenly. Velma was determined to leave training and devote herself to the care of her four younger siblings and widowed father. Her father however, saw things differently and insisted she complete her nursing program.
In June 1940, she completed her studies becoming a registered nurse. Almost immediately thereafter she found a position. Her supervisor at Grace Methodist knew that Louis Graves M.D. in St. John needed a nurse. She was interviewed and hired on the spot.
On December 21, 1941, Velma married Dillian McFarland Zimmerman, son of Thomas Israel Zimmerman and Marjorie Ellen Rothrock Zimmerman. A photographer and printer, Dillian was employed at the St. John News. In November 1941, he had enlisted in the Navy and was stationed in Portland, Maine.
There, in July 1943, their first child was born: Dillian McFarland Jr. or "Mac." When Dillian was transferred to Europe, Velma and Mac traveled to St. John. Velma returned to nursing and continued throughout the war years. In November 1945, Thomas Lee was born to Velma and Dillian. Four more children followed: Judie Ann in 1950, Rex Alan in 1952, Jan Leon in 1955 and Julie Ann in 1959.
Throughout the years, while raising six children to successful adulthood, Velma continued her work as a nurse. She assisted Dr. Graves until he died in 1970. Upon his death, Hearthstone Nursing Center, a senior citizen medical facility, offered her a position. Within her first year at the Center she was appointed Director of Nursing and she remained in that position until she retired. Velma’s work as a nurse carried over into her role as a private citizen in the community. She contributed many intensive hours to the American Cancer Society and the Shepherd's Center - and she still does. Always on call, Velma never ceases to assist those in need, giving treatments, injections, removing stitches and providing comfort at all hours of the day or night.
Now, a beloved grandmother of twelve and great-grandmother of five, she spends considerable time "grandma-sitting" and visiting her children, other family members and friends. At home, when time allows, she enjoys her flowers, reading crossword puzzles and the Kansas City Royals --- especially when they win!