Hospice pioneer dies at 91

Friday, November 14, 2008 5:42 AM EST
By Rachael Scarborough King, Register Staff

BRANFORD — After a career spent making the end-of-life process easier for people across the country, town resident Florence Schorske Wald died last weekend at the age of 91.

Wald brought the idea of hospice care to the United States and founded Connecticut Hospice, the first in the country. She also served as dean of the Yale School of Nursing from 1959 to 1966.

She worked with Cicely Saunders, who developed hospice care in Great Britain, and imported the model to the United States. Connecticut Hospice, based in Branford, opened in the early 1970s.

In a statement, Linda Laucella and Marcel Blanchet of Connecticut Hospice called Wald “one of the distinguished pioneers of hospice in America” and “a leader in the international workgroup on death, dying and bereavement.”

Wald and her husband, Henry Wald, who died in 2000, worked together to create a plan for in-patient hospice care.

In 1998, Wald was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame for her work in founding hospice. Due to her experiences with patients, Wald told the Register at the time, she did not have a fear of death. “I conceive of it as a being very peaceful process,” she said.

In recent years, she spearheaded efforts to bring hospice care to residents of Connecticut’s prisons.

As a nurse and dean, Wald developed a model of nursing education that focused on patients and their families, according to a statement from the Yale School of Nursing.

Wald earned Master of Nursing and Master of Science degrees from Yale, and was also awarded several honorary degrees. She graduated from Mount Holyoke College in 1938.

She was also a member of the American Nurses’ Association’s Hall of Fame and the Connecticut Hall of Fame and was named an American Academy of Nursing “living legend.”

“We at Yale were privileged to have Florence Wald with us for over 50 years,” School of Nursing Dean Margaret Grey said. “In her passing we have lost a dear friend and an extraordinary leader and visionary who put the needs of the under served as a primary life focus.”

A funeral service was held Wednesday at Yale’s Battell Chapel. Memorial gifts can be made to the School of Nursing’s Florence Schorske Wald Scholarship Fund or to any hospice.

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