Our beloved mother, grandmother and friend, Gert MacQueen passed into the Life Eternal on Monday, May 16 just before dawn peacefully and gracefully at Sunnybrook Assisted Living Memory Gardens. She was 96 years young.
Born May 1, 1920 to a poor family of farm laborers, Verna Gertrude McLaughlin was the 3rd of four children. Her father abandoned the family when Gert was very young. As a child, Gert had to work hard to help support her family through the Depression. With the encouragement and help of people who saw her potential, she graduated from nursing school in 1941 at Virginia Mason Hospital in Seattle, Washington. There she met her husband, Dr. John Charles MacQueen. They married and he left for WW II for 3 years. On his return they began a family. They moved to Iowa City in 1947 so that Dr. MacQueen could begin his residency in Pediatrics at the University of Iowa Hospital. The family quickly swelled to six children.
Gert was a stay at home mother until the youngest was eight. She then returned to nursing to work part time for 20 years as a Surgical Intensive Care nurse. Gert was a fabulous and famous nurse at the hospital. Known for her excellence in nursing skills, she was also deeply compassionate and a great advocate for her patients.
Gert was also deeply involved in politics for all of her adult life. She served as the State Chairwoman for the Democratic Party for seven years and ran state campaigns for various presidential hopefuls. Her enthusiasm, passion for the public welfare, and engaging style made her a natural leader and organizer in a time when women did not often have leadership roles in politics. This passion did not dim with age. At 88 years old, she walked door to door to canvas her entire precinct for Barak Obama in heels.
Gert also volunteered at the Iowa City Public Library, the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library as a docent, Iowa City Community Theatre, Project Green in Iowa City, the Visiting Nurse Association and spearheaded the Heritage Trees project to locate the largest trees in Johnson County. An avid cyclist, Gert rode RAGBRAI for 11 years. She would offer help and assistance to all who came to her.
Gert was truly a self-made woman…who read literature, history, enjoyed poetry, theatre, opera, and sponsored the fine arts and artists who made it. Her home was filled with music, beauty, art and a glorious garden. She was the consummate hostess and loved a good party. Gert travelled the world with friends and family. Often described as “larger than life”, she inspired and encouraged all around her by just being who she was.
In the midst of a very dynamic and engaged life, Gert was deeply devoted to her family. She remained married for 66 years until her husband’s death in 2009. She cared for her oldest daughter, Candace, in her home who died of cancer in 2000. She is survived by her daughters Susan in Bettendorf, Debra (Stephen) in California, Jennifer Hamilton (Doug) of Fairfield and sons John (Nancy) of Des Moines, and Brian of Fairfield. Her grandchildren Dr. John Hartman (Lori) and Gabriel (Rieko) Hartman of Bettendorf, William Hamilton (Elizabeth) of Fairfield and Mila Hamilton of Minneapolis. And 5 great grandchildren. She had a huge “family of choice” who embraced her and who she embraced over the years. There will be a celebration of her life on Saturday, May 21st at St. Gabriel and All Angels Church in Fairfield at 1 pm. By her request, the body has been cremated and her ashes will go the Puget Sound in Washington State.
Verna Gertrude MacQueen, age 96 of Fairfield, Iowa passed away on May 16, 2016 at Sunnybrook Assisted Living, Fairfield, Iowa. There will be a celebration of her life on Saturday, May 21st at St. Gabriel and All Angels Church in Fairfield, Iowa at 1:00 pm. By her request, the body has been cremated. Behner Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.
Saturday, May 21, 2016
St. Gabriel and all Angels Liberal Catholic Church
300 West Burlington Ave.
Fairfield, Iowa 52556