Opinion

Jourgensen: Stalwart women well remembered

Surrounded by jungle and as far away from her Lynn home as she could be, the 21-year-old nurse tried to soothe and calm a young man as he screamed, “Give me back my leg. Give me back my leg.”

The nurse was Phyllis Galeaz and her memory of caring for a man in agony dates back to 1942 when Galeaz was stationed in New Guinea caring for wounded fighting men.

Galeaz died last Saturday at the age of 100. She is one of three amazing local women who made their mark on Lynn and never shirked a challenge. The other two — Jean F. Nigro and Eleanor M. Atkins-Wessell — were stalwarts along with Galeaz in the best sense of the word. Nigro died on Dec. 27 and Wessell died the following day.

Their lives read like excerpts from novels or movie scripts. An accomplished pianist, Nigro entertained American troops during World War II and wrote them letters to help bolster their morale. One of her letter recipients, Warren Nigro of Revere, sent her two dozen roses to thank her for her correspondence. The gesture led to romance and 59 years of marriage.

She frequently tickled the ivories at The Wharf in Revere and Warren, after retiring from the River Works, rarely missed a chance to hear his wife play.

Wessell was one of those strong women who make the difference in whether a cause succeeds or flounders. She was the personification of King’s Lynne and its enduring history as a place where mixed income housing succeeds.

An activist for fair housing and elder care rights, Wessell served as King’s Lynne Resident Council president and was a past president of the Mass Senior Action Lynn chapter. A telephone call from Wessell meant you couldn’t hang up until she got the answer she wanted from you.

Phyllis Galeaz beamed with pride in 1997 when the city of Lynn dedicated a memorial saluting women veterans. A week before the dedication ceremony, she recalled for the Item how she was stationed in Massachusetts when the the call went out for nurses to volunteer to serve in the Pacific theater.

The memories of the pain and terror she witnessed could not be dimmed by the decades.

“To see a young man crying is very hard,” she recalled in 1997.

Long live their memories and the courage of their convictions all three women maintained throughout their lives.

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Last week’s regional 911 emergency call system snafu made me think back to what I’ve read about the city’s former emergency callbox network. Once the communication frontline for municipal emergency response, the boxes were taken out of service in August 2014, said Fire Chief Steve Archer, although a few unused boxes, like this one at Broad and Exchange streets, can still be seen.

The boxes were maintained by the city electrical department and maintenance costs and the proliferation of cellphones overtook the callbox system’s usefulness.

“The wiring systems were antiquated and just became too expensive to continue to maintain,” Archer said.

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Thanks for friend and resident expert Dick Coppinger for his steady supply of wild and weird police blotter stories, including the one about the guy who was stabbed in the leg by a pitchfork ” …hurled at him by an unidentified assailant.”

“The (pitchfork) tine was imbedded so deeply that police removed him … to a waiting ambulance and then to Lynn Hospital without removing the implement,” read the news story chronicling the spearing. Ouch.

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