BRANDON — Even as a girl, Elizabeth Ann Bateman Buehler was determined to have a career as a registered nurse. She studied so hard in college that she didn't have time for dating.
That's why she went to her graduation dance with a complete stranger. That stranger went on to become her husband of 57 years.
Mrs. Buehler died May 22 at age 80. She had suffered from chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder for about a year and a half.
She had a successful career as a nurse, as she had always wanted. Locally, she served as director of nursing at the Home Association in Tampa and later at the Williams Road Cluster Home for the Developmentally Disabled.
She never stopped studying, always taking courses to get new nursing certifications. She worked until she was in her 70s, long after her husband had retired.
"It was her way of keeping active, staying involved in life," said her husband, Vic Buehler. "She wasn't the kind who would go over to the neighbor's and sit and have coffee. She thought there were more important things in life."
But as devoted as she was to nursing, it took a backseat to her role as a wife and a mother to her seven children. When her kids were young, she'd work the graveyard shift so she could sleep during the day and wake up when the kids got home from school.
"She was a wonderful mom, very loving," said her son, Frank. "Her priority was that we all get an education, that we do something with our lives. All seven of us have at least one college degree, and that was my mother's influence. She and my father had to scrimp and save but they wanted to make sure they had enough money to send us to college."
She grew up in Mexico, N.Y., and graduated from Crouse-Irving Nursing School in nearby Syracuse in 1949.
Vic Buehler lived close by in Utica, and a friend asked him if he'd like to go on a double blind date at the college.
"I said, 'Sure, why not,' " Buehler said. "I made deal with my friend that I would drive and pay for gas and I'd give him $10 so the girls wouldn't know he didn't have any money. In exchange, I'd get my pick of the girls.
He knew immediately which girl to pick.
"I saw her and I thought, 'Look at the tomato! Don't tell me she doesn't have a boyfriend,' " Buehler said. "But she didn't have one. She was always studying so she never went out."
The two were virtually inseparable from that moment. Their first date lasted until 4 a.m., and Buehler had to be at work at 7.
"I didn't go home," he said. "I slept in my car with my feet sticking out the window. Then I went to work and that evening I went back to Syracuse to take her to dinner."
They married the next year and moved to Brandon in 1978 to escape the Northern winters.
She continued nursing work until about eight years ago. Toward the end, she was working on a contract basis for the state, traveling to nursing homes around west-central Florida making sure patients were receiving proper care.
She only had one bad habit worth mentioning, her husband said, and that may have led to her death.
"Unfortunately," he said, "she just didn't stop smoking early enough."
Besides her husband, Mrs. Buehler is survived by her children, Janet, April, Victor Jr., Frank, Jane, Gretchen and Beth; two brothers, two sisters and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Marty Clear can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.