By Ron VandenBoom
Anyone visiting the fifth floor of Northern Montana Hospital Friday would have noticed something different about the way the nurses were dressed -- they were all wearing caps.
The tall, white, angular cap that for years was one of the most recognizable symbols of nursing, is rarely seen today. New styles, new traditions and new nurses have replaced the old, except for Lolly Evans -- a 24-year employee at NMH who refused to let the tradition die. At least not until Friday, Dec. 17, when Evans removed her cap for the last time and said goodbye to her fellow employees.
On that day her fellow nurses wore the traditional cap to pay tribute to one of their own.
"They don't even do the capping ceremony anymore," Evans said, referring to the long-held ceremony where the newly graduated nurse received her cap.
Evans describes a time when she was a Candy Striper at the hospital.
"I went up to Northern Montana College to ask some questions about nursing," she said. "When I got home I told my husband, 'You won't believe what I just did.'"
Evans started her nursing career at the Havre hospital after graduation. At the time, the hospital on 13th Street was only a few months old and she immediately became what she described as "a very political animal."
She sat on the Board of Nursing for eight years and traveled extensively to seminars and conventions on behalf of the nursing profession.
"I've had a lot of learning and growing experiences and I'm a firm believer that if you want to make changes you can," she said.
Over her 24-year career, Evans has had to care for many of her friends and her own family members.
"I think it gives them a great deal of comfort to know that it's somebody they know that's taking care of that patient for them," she said.
But not all of her patients recovered and Evans has also had to deal with the inevitable end of human life. For this, Evans has developed a philosophy that can only be described as positive.
"But death can be a beautiful thing," she said. "It isn't always bad. We try to make it a good experience for everybody involved. This is a process of life that we all go through and it can be good."
Evans said she plans to spend a lot of her retirement on the road in the family fifth-wheel camper. But she leaves behind a lot of good memories and good friends.
"I won't miss getting up at 5 a.m. to come to work, though," she said.