A Biography of the Life of Rosalyn Messerly
By: Matt Wechter
From saving lives to traveling the world, Rosalyn (Roz) Messerly’s story is definitely one to remember. If you are interested in nursing you will especially want to tune in to this woman’s magnificent journey. Her story all started on the 4th of July in 1926; what a great way to celebrate a birthday every year by watching fireworks sparkle in the night sky. Roz was born on a farm but was certainly no farm girl. She moved off of the farm when she was three because her dad acquired the town dairy located on the corner of Whipple and Portage. She lived with her family at the dairy throughout grade school.
She went to North Canton High School, now called Hoover and was educated more strictly than children and teenagers are nowadays. Her teachers allowed for many outdoor activities, but they were not as interactive as they tend to be now. While at the high school, she was lucky enough to attend games during the 1939 state championship boys basketball season. These well-attended games brought the city a feeling of togetherness as well as great joy when much of the town traveled down to watch them win the state title. She also had the pleasure to be apart of the naming of the high school’s mascot, the Viking, as well as creating the alma mater. After graduating and achieving the citizenship award in 1944, she was off to bigger and better things and with no time to spare.
Ever since she was a little girl, Roz knew she wanted to be a nurse. In her childhood when her dad was sick, she folded his handkerchief in a nurse’s cap and was ready to care for him. She had asked her mom at the store to buy her a nurse’s kit complete with an apron, thermometer, stethoscope, etc. She had an inner urge to be a nurse and nothing was stopping her. She listened to stories of nurses’ lives on the radio and kept up on nursing news. She was so determined that she persuaded her dad to agree to buy her a watch with a second hand, which were not cheap back in the 40s.
There were not many nurses to model after in those days because they had all gone off to war, but this gave Roz the opportunity, right after high school, to join a program called the cadet nurse corps at Aultman Hospital. Within a month of graduation, she was off to work. The corps was an opportunity for nurses with a minimum of a high school graduate degree to stand in for nurses who went off to help the war effort, so many of them had little experience. The nurses were required to stay for the duration of the war. It was basically a job that one would learn on the run. Aultman had few tools and medicines to work with. Machinery was rarely used. Most of the time the only machine that was used was the x-ray generator, as patients had to be taken to a special room to use these large types of tools. Sanitary condition was much less strict. Many things were simply cleaned by powdering and soaking in ether and then reused, such as gloves, needles, and stomach tubes because of a lack of money. The anesthesia at Aultman usually consisted of a can of ether, causing many patients nausea when they woke up. Much of the work at the hospital was bedside care, but Roz opted for more.
While in the nurse cadet corps she went to work at a more advanced hospital for postgraduate classes, as they were called, in St. Louis. The cases she worked there were more extreme and expanded her knowledge even more. She went on to get her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Akron University, with some specialty classes at Wayne State.
In the meanwhile, Roz, at the age of 25, had met a young man on a blind date from the air guard after WWII. He had flown P-51 planes as a fighter pilot in the south Pacific. He had also been from North Canton, the nephew of Nefferly Drug Store owner, and she was acquainted with him as a young girl as their dads hunted together. They fell in love and decided to get married. He loved flying, so he started working at Goodyear as an aerospace engineer. He had accomplished the feat of inventing floatation gear for spacecraft that landed in water for which he received a government citation. Roz says he was a very creative man and loved woodworking. Their life together, she says, worked out because “He did his flying, and I did my nursing.”
After working at Aultman, Roz continued in nursing, but in a different way–teaching. She was an original founder of the Aultman College and was on the board for eleven years as well as being the director the operating room. She worked at the Tuscarawas branch and was the first director of the two-year program there. She also worked at Akron University, leading an interdisciplinary elderly care study. She cared about giving her students a quality experience for their education. She used realistic learning experiences with medical tools and in the emergency room. She would make students put together equipment from scratch so that they could learn the ins and outs for maximum understanding in the future. She would even sometimes take away pieces to let the students figure out on their own that something was missing. She remembered how her teachers in school were not as interactive or as fun. She believed that to teach students right is to make the learning process fun in order to encourage interest in nursing and memorable moments because, at the end of the day, it is about the guy in the bed. Her students still come in to see her after all years, some even have PhDs. Roz is proud of her accomplished students.
With all of this experience in nursing and teaching, she was ready to spread her ideas to others around. She joined an organization created by President Eisenhower called People to People where groups travel to other countries and trade ideas about a certain topic, in her case nursing. She traveled all around the world to countries including Hawaii, Antigua, Israel, Russia, England, China, Holland, Denmark, Poland, and Scotland to name a few. She had a few things to say about these places. Her first trip was to China in 1982. She enjoyed Israel. She remembers Northern Europe for its inflated prices. She was not fond of Russia’s condition in the 80s, however. They took visitors’ passports, did not provide services, had poorly maintained hotel rooms with no curtains and bad food. The living conditions for their citizens, she said, was not up to par. On the bright side, countries she went to spoke English well.
Roz has had a very accomplished life so far, and North Canton residents should be proud to live in her original neighborhood. She was the first recipient the lifetime award from Aultman. This is a great and humbling honor for her. It encompasses all of her nursing life, and to think that it all started with that handkerchief nurse’s cap when she was a young girl is astonishing. She says that you have to be a sponge, soaking up knowledge from all kinds of sources, and in her case students, teachers, doctors, patients/families, authors, speeches, etc. She believes in courage, innovation, and thinking ahead because there is not one best way to do something. Here are some words of wisdom from Rosalyn Carper Messerly that everyone should take home with them:
Nothing is all fun and games. There are bad days for everything, and there are times where you do something dumb that you wish you hadn’t done. You learn from that and just don’t do it the second time. Take each day at a time, and learn from your experiences that day to apply to the next.