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Aurore Eaton's Looking Back: The Notre Dame de Lourdes School of Nursing — a legacy of service

September 23. 2013 4:29PM

By the early 1950s, the accreditation requirements for nursing schools had evolved to the point where the Notre Dame de Lourdes (NDL) Hospital School of Nursing in Manchester was no longer able to offer the full range of classroom instruction required. For a short period students traveled to Rivier College in Nashua for some classes and later the school contracted with Saint Anselm College to provide instruction in several subjects.

Graduates of the NDL School went on to live lives of service in a variety of medical settings. Some found their path in the military. During World War II the school participated in the Cadet Nurse Corps, a federal program designed to help meet the wartime shortage of trained nurses. Tuition and other costs were subsidized, and the normal course of study was accelerated. This national effort produced nurses at a fast pace while enabling students to play a bigger role in the hospital setting.

From 1911, when the NDL School was founded, to 1953 at least 40 graduates served in the military in all branches of the service. More would serve during the Vietnam War era. Some of these nurses were sent abroad to provide medical care to the wounded.

After Sarah C. Ramsey graduated from the school in 1918, she signed up with the U. S. Naval Reserve for a four-year stint. Her daughter, Cecile Sirois Sartorelli, graduated from the school in 1943, and served in the army from 1944 to 1946. She completed the Flight Nurse Course at the Army Air Forces School of Aviation Medicine in July 1945. She spent the next year as an air evacuation flight nurse transporting wounded soldiers from France to the United States as part of the 830th Medical Air Evacuation Squadron.

A Derry native, Lillian (Bournival) Stevens graduated from NDL in 1939. She enlisted in the Army Nurses Corps in 1943 as a Second Lieutenant. After serving at military bases in the U.S., she was sent to England to work as a psychiatric nurse. She reflected about this experience in a New Hampshire Union Leader interview in 2012, "I was just a nurse. I felt I could offer whatever I had. It was difficult to see the boys suffer, but it was rewarding to nurse the guys who needed help." She continued her career in the U.S. Army Reserve, and after 34 years retired as Lieutenant Colonel.

First Lieutenant Alice Houle, a 1950 graduate, joined the Army Nurse Corps in 1951. She served with the nursing section of the 171st Evacuation Hospital in Korea, and was presented with a citation for meritorious service. In 1952, NDL graduates Ida Vigue and Rachel Benard both joined the Navy Nurse Corps as Ensigns.

In 1968, graduate Pauline Hebert was a captain in the U.S. Army Nurse Corps of the 12th Evacuation Hospital in Cu Chi Vietnam. Also serving during the Vietnam era was Louise Tremblay of Manchester. Louise was an Air Force flight nurse, trained at the School of Aviation Medicine at Brooks Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. She became an officer in the N.H. Air National Guard's 157th USAF Dispensary.

The Sisters of Charity of St.-Hyacinthe (the Grey Nuns) founded Notre Dame de Lourdes Hospital on Manchester's West Side in 1894, and ran it with compassion, zeal and professionalism. However, as the decades passed, they were faced with mounting financial challenges.

The nursing school was closed in 1965, and in 1971 control of the hospital was turned over to a lay (non-religious) corporation. In 1974 Notre Dame Hospital merged with Sacred Heart Hospital to become Catholic Medical Center. The old Notre Dame Hospital was demolished in 1976, and a modern building was constructed on its site. This facility was enlarged and improved in subsequent years.

The Manchester Historic Association has collected the formal photos of many of the graduating classes of the Notre Dame de Lourdes Hospital School of Nursing. These images may be viewed at Also, the school's alumni association maintains scrapbooks chronicling the school's history.

This group is collaborating with the Association to collect stories, documents and photographs relating to the history of the school. If you can help, please call (603) 622-7531 or e-mail

Next week: Valley Cemetery Stories continue with the tale of Mary Gale.

Aurore Eaton is executive director of Manchester Historic Association; email her at

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