Couple establishes scholarship as tribute to nurse’s career
LEVELLAND – It is said that Florence Nightingale’s philosophy and teachings emphasize that the nurse must use her brain, heart and hands to create healing environments to care for the patient’s body, mind and spirit. For more than 40 years, Joyce Alexander Luck epitomized the essence of Florence Nightingale throughout her career as a nurse.
Charles and Cathy Ehrenfeld have given $10,000 to the Board of Directors of the South Plains College Foundation to establish the Joyce Alexander Luck Memorial Scholarship Endowment to assist South Plains College students. Preference will be given to a first-semester student who has been admitted to the Associate Degree Nursing program.
Luck graduated from nursing school at Hillcrest Memorial in Waco in September 1948. She was in the last class of nursing cadets that were funded by the United States government. She served as a World War II nurse cadet.
"She grew up in a very poor family with her five siblings," Mrs. Ehrenfeld said. "Her mother, Minnie Alexander, sold cosmetics door to door, and her father, Russell Alexander, was a carpenter. He, unfortunately, had a lot of health issues and was unable to work consistently."
After Luck left Waco, she moved to Andrews because her sister, Helen, lived there. At the time, the city had homes for nurses and teachers that were occupied by single women in those professions. Luck took care of the oil rig accident victims. Whenever a patient had a seizure or needed to be anesthetized, she would administer drops of ether through a mask while straddling an oxygen tank at the back of a hearse from the funeral home, which doubled as an ambulance. The patient was transported to a hospital in Abilene.
Luck worked in every facet of nursing, including hospital nursing, operating the Homemakers Upjohn for the West Texas region, and working for more than 35 years as a school nurse in Andrews and Midland. She served on hospital boards at Andrews County Hospital and the Permian Basin. She was president of the Lions Club and a member of the First Baptist Church. She married Douglas "Bob" Luck, and to that union, Cathy Sue was born in 1956. Luck maintained her nursing credentials until the age of 90 in 2020.
"If the children had lice in their hair or were in need of clothing, she was right there to help them," she said.
Mrs. Ehrenfeld said that when she was 4 years old, she asked her mother, "What are poor people?" because she always heard her talking with the child welfare worker about poor people.
"She took me with her to the home of a family living in the country, and literally their floor was just dirt," she said. "They would just dig a hole and burn their trash. There was a baby in the crib that had lice in its eyelashes. I didn’t have to ask about poor people because the circumstances were just so awful. "
Mrs. Ehrenfeld said her mother was a very forward-thinking person as far as her nursing was concerned. Luck often took care of community people with blood pressure clinics or assisted people with terminal illnesses who wanted a nurse but didn’t have the means to pay someone.
"She would go and be with them," Mrs. Ehrenfeld said. "This was before hospice care became widely known."
Mrs. Ehrenfeld said her mother had a lot of regrets because she didn’t get to spend a lot of time with her while she was growing up.
"I missed that special time with her while she was giving to others," she said. "My mother was always the definition of a consummate lady. She was not a woman who used profanity, and her appearance was always important to her. Back in the days when it wasn’t normal for a mother to work outside the home, not only did she work but she also supported any endeavor that I had.
"Whether it be the girl scouts, cotillion dances or whatever, she was there," Mrs. Ehrenfeld said. "She wanted me to have a culture that extended beyond a small town. She would take me to piano concerts. We drove to Lubbock to see Doctor Zhivago when it came out. It was important to her to elevate me by taking me to events that enriched my life."
Mrs. Ehrenfeld said that in later years, she took her mother to her nursing class reunions. The last one she attended was her 65th, and there were only four of her classmates still living. They told stories about covering entire wards of the hospital in Waco during WWII. Luck told stories about the newborn babies and said it was not uncommon to have one nurse for 20 babies. The doctor would always want to be sure the babies were fed and swaddled, which was impossible for just one nurse. She said she would buy a nickel ice cream cone from the cafeteria and give each baby a little taste. When the doctor arrived, the babies would be mouthy like they had just had their bottles.
"It was always important to her to help those in need," Mrs. Ehrenfeld said. "She shared a story about how she would identify the poor kids. And whenever an event like Valentine’s Day took place, she would call those less fortunate kids into her office and give them cards to take home so that every child received a Valentine’s Day card.
Luck was a life-long Democrat, a devout Christian, and she loved shoes and fashion. She copied many styles from Jacqueline Kennedy. Her faith, compassion and continual desire to attend to the needs of others were her mission in life.
"I asked her once how she chose her profession, and she said, 'Well Cathy, whenever I got to ride the Inner Urban, which was the bus back in the day, the nurses would get on, and they looked so nice in their starched uniforms," Mrs. Ehrenfeld said. "They just seemed to have such a presence about them. I wanted to be a nurse. "
For more information about ways to support scholarships and students at South Plains College, contact the Office of Development and Alumni Relations, at (806) 716-2019.