Nurse was dedicated to family and helping others
For a young graduate nurse from East Brady in Clarion County, it was a tempting offer to leave a small town and tour the country with a traveling circus.
‘My mother had an offer to join a circus as their nurse and go on the road with them,’ said Ellen Gering’s daughter, Cindy Ciocca. ‘But, my mother, who was brought up in a strict Baptist home, could see the pitfalls of traveling with the circus and living a nomadic life.’
Instead of the circus life, Ellen Clark, who received her nursing degree from the Western Pennsylvania Hospital School of Nursing in 1931, chose to become a public health nurse who used her nursing skills to help many of the poor and disadvantaged families who lived along the back roads of Clarion County.
Ellen Clark Gering, a resident of Greensburg, Westmoreland County, died from natural causes on Sunday, June 10, 2001, at her home. She was 91.
‘Mom was a progressive woman who was an advocate to the poor and disadvantaged,’ Ciocca said. ‘She drove her own car over the back roads of Clarion County, often stopping to put on tire chains when it was snowing. And she lost count of how many babies she delivered.’
While eating lunch in a restaurant in New Bethlehem, Clarion County, she met George Kenneth Gering, a Penn State student who was working in New Bethlehem during summer recess.
‘They sat next to each other at the lunch counter,’ said Ciocca. ‘Mom couldn’t keep her eyes off of Dad. In fact, she even ate his salad by mistake.’
After a two-year courtship, where Ellen Clark would often visit Penn State and attend Ken Gering’s fraternity parties, they were married. As was the norm at the time, she quit working to stay home and raise her family.
Born in Rimersburg, Clarion County, and raised in East Brady, Ellen Clark was one of 11 children of Samuel Edward and Liddie Samantha Yates Clark. Her father had been employed as a mining foreman.
‘My mother was the only one in her family who had the opportunity to receive a degree,’ her daughter said. ‘Even when she was attending East Brady High School, she always said that she wanted to be a nurse. It was her way of doing something for others.’
The Clarks were members of the East Brady Baptist Church, where Ellen Clark as a teen-ager taught Sunday School, and received a pin denoting five years of perfect church and Sunday School attendance.
As an electrical engineer and later an executive with West Penn Power, Ken Gering moved his family to Washington, Washington County, the South Hills of Pittsburgh and eventually to Greensburg when West Penn Power moved its offices to Westmoreland County.
Although Mrs. Gering never returned to active nursing, she continued to volunteer in some of the poorer neighborhoods in Allegheny, Washington and Westmoreland counties.
Ciocca, who holds a master’s degree in pediatric nursing and who at one time was the director of infection control at UPMC Presbyterian, recalled as a child going with her mother to a home at 3 in the morning and watching her deliver a baby for a woman who already had eight children and couldn’t afford a doctor.
‘I watched Mom heating the sheets and the tongs, delivering the baby and then calling a doctor to administer the necessary medication,’ said Ciocca, who received her nursing degree from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. ‘My mother never directed me to go into nursing, but like my mother, it was something that I had always wanted to do.’
Mrs. Gering is survived by her husband, G. Kenneth Gering; daughter, Cindy Ciocca; and grandchildren, Derek and Amanda Ciocca. She is also survived by a sister, Margie Mayich; several cousins; and numerous nieces and nephews.
She was preceded in death by several brothers and sisters, and her son, Kenny, who passed away at age 7.
Visitation will be held from 3 to 5 and 7 to 9 p.m. today at the Kepple-Graft Funeral Home Inc., 524 N. Main St., Greensburg.
A service will be held at 11 a.m. Friday in the East Brady Baptist Church, followed by a graveside service at the Rimersburg Cemetery.