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Obituary for Patricia L. Somers
A descendant of an Oregon pioneer family, Patricia L. Stearns Somers was born to David W. Stearns and Violet M. Stearns (nee` Berntsen) in Coquille, OR, joining her elder sister and lifelong friend, Bernice. “Patty” was an intelligent child of remarkable patience and compassion, traits that would lead to her career and to many wonderful friendships. In 1934, the family moved to Portland, where she graduated from Lincoln High School. She received her Bachelor of Science in Nursing in 1948, after attending Oregon State College (now University) College of Nursing. After graduation, she began working at the VA Hospital in Portland, when she heard of an opportunity to work in the Alaska Territory. She moved to Mt. Edgecumbe, Alaska, where she worked at an Indian Health Services hospital, for about 3 years. She met George Somers on the steamship SS Alaska, and was married in 1953 in Portland. They moved to Marana, a small town in the Arizona desert, where they lived for a while on the school grounds. The neighbors helped stir the beans when they took the shortcut through the house to get onto the school grounds during the summer. The area around Marana encompassed 500 square miles, with no other medically trained person in the vast farming community. She began volunteering at a small two room clinic for migrant workers in Marana, which was open two afternoons a month, staffed by volunteer doctors from Tucson. At the same time, her family expanded to include a daughter and five sons. In 1962, the local school nurse left and Pat was recruited into school nursing, but she continued to volunteer the afternoons of clinic. Word spread of this nurse who lived in the community; the town’s inhabitants would show up at her home with assorted maladies and bloody injuries, frequently during the family’s dinners. The visitors could not wait for care on “clinic day”. Pat was sent to Kentucky to observe a program there known as “Nurses on Horseback”, which was becoming a model for nurse-midwives. She reported back to Arizona on the viability of such a program in Arizona’s rural area. Soon she was piloting a program in Arizona to train nurses to become more advanced practitioners in rural areas, while continuing to work as the school nurse. As the pilot program progressed and became accredited, she then completed the course along with eleven other selected nurses. Upon graduating, this group became the first Family Nurse Practitioners in Arizona. Meanwhile, the Marana Community Christian Church provided land and fund-raising to build a new seven room clinic building leading to additional volunteer physicians and more “clinic days” each month. The new clinic site became a National Health Service Corps facility and Pat became the full-time Nurse Practitioner there. After Pat was transferred out of Marana in 1983, her friend Ora Mae Harn took the little clinic to new heights. Today, this clinic with its humble two room beginnings, is a large multi-faceted health care provider with satellite sites around Pima County, Arizona. Pat finished her career in another National Health Service Corps site in Vernonia, Oregon, then retired to Gold Beach, Oregon in 1990. Through all of these working years, she spent even more of her time raising her six children, taking them on vacations and helping them with encouragement and schoolwork. Her children and grandchildren were the pride of her life. They have been blessed to have a mother who taught that the highest and best purpose of one’s life is to help other people. She said, “If you have truly helped even just one other person in your life, you will have fulfilled God’s purpose for you.” Though, she would say, in this case, more is definitely better! Pat will always be remembered for her gentle compassion, her soft voice, and her unwavering love of humanity in its many forms. No one who received one of her gentle, all-encompassing hugs can forget that feeling of total acceptance she projected. She was predeceased by her parents, David W. and Violet; her husband, George; her sister, Bernice, and grandson Ted Somers. Pat is survived by her daughter, Bernice (Rafael) Torrez of Gold Beach, OR, and sons: Don (Linda) Somers of Marana, AZ; David (Bonnie) Somers of Snowflake, AZ; Dan (Tamera) Somers of Gold Beach, OR; Dr. Douglas (Sharon) Somers of North Liberty, IA; and Dale (Shana) Somers of Kingsland, GA. Grandchildren include Misty Brown, Mindy Green, Ted Brown, Paul Somers, Kevin Somers, Kristy Johnson, Tony Somers, Adam Woodall, Chad Somers, Waylon Somers, Thane Somers, Lydia Somers, Dale Somers, Jr., Rachael Allison, and Robert Somers. There are also 23 great-grandchildren. Services were held March 21, 2014 at First Baptist Church, Gold Beach, OR. Graveside service was held at Rogue River Cemetery, and a luncheon of joy and remembrance was shared at Docia Sweet Hall at the Fairgrounds in Gold Beach. Pat asked that those wishing to contribute in her memory donate to the Marana Health Care Foundation, Doctors Without Borders, or any charity that helps that one person.