In a life that spanned just 44 years, Jacqueline “Jackie” Beretta Dwyer made a lasting impression. In 1984, two months after she died, Jackie’s brother, Vic Beretta, received a letter from the Indiana University Family Practice Center, where Jackie had worked as a nurse manager. Jackie’s colleagues had established a nursing excellence award and scholarship fund in her memory. The official award presentation read:
“All of us who knew and worked with [Jackie] respected her for her personal dignity, professionalism and demonstrated concern for everyone. She touched the lives of many, always with positive results.”
For the past 38 years, Vic has received letters with the name or names of the recipients of the annual scholarship, which is awarded to a junior nursing student at IU School of Nursing. He has kept the stack of letters in a file, along with the original letter and newsletter clippings about Jackie and the award. It’s a testament to the close relationship he and Jackie shared—growing up with their parents in a tight-knit family of five children in Bedford, Indiana. Considering the kind of person she was, Vic said it’s no surprise that Jackie chose to be a nurse.
“She was one of those people who was very caring and did things for others,” he recalls. “She just had that kind of nurturing and caring personality.”
Vic and his wife, Marilyn, have donated to the scholarship fund every year since it was established. They do it, Vic said, to honor Jackie, but also to recognize all nurses. The contributions of nurses became even more clear to him when Jackie was hospitalized shortly after being diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
“My mom wanted someone to be with Jackie around the clock while she was in the hospital, so between me, my siblings and my mom, we divided up the time. While I was there, I talked to a lot of nurses working on the oncology ward, and I asked them how they could do this type of work; it just seemed so depressing. Every one of them had someone in their family who had experienced cancer, and they just felt a need to pay it back. I was impressed by that, and the nurses’ attitude and the care they gave to my sister during those three months before she died.”
Vic and Marilyn’s respect for nurses extends to several members of their own family who are following in Jackie’s footsteps. In fact, their daughter, Melissa, a maternal fetal medicine and labor and delivery nurse, chose nursing in part because of her aunt Jackie.
“Even today, Melissa still says she can feel my sister watching over her,” Vic says.