SPRING HILL — Next to her 1939 senior high school yearbook photo, there was an inscription:
Endowed with determination and willingness to work.
• • •
Doris Dugas, an only child, was born in Baltimore to parents who said she could be whatever she wanted.
"She felt like she was so lucky because she really did have a lot of independence," said her daughter, Kathryn Sherman. "Her parents never stagnated her."
When she was 5, little Doris was hit by a car, crushing her liver and sending her to a hospital for 45 days. She found comfort from a nurse named Emily who was kind to Doris and treated her like a daughter.
Doris decided one day she would be a nurse, too.
After high school and nursing training, her name was listed in the newspaper as a graduate. Emily, her former nurse, read it and tracked her down to bestow a gift — a set of syringes and scissors and operating tools she used during World War I.
Doris kept them forever.
She joined the Army Nurse Corps, clamoring for the thick of action. During World War II, she cared for soldiers in France and England. She once served under Gen. George S. Patton and saved a holiday card he gave to troops, her family said.
One day in June 1944, the nurses were called away from a dance and shuttled to their quarters in Army trucks. As they rode, they heard a loud noise and looked to the sky. It was black, blanketed by airplanes nose to tail.
The next day came to be called D-Day.
Later, back in America, orders came for one of her colleagues to serve in the Panama Canal Zone. But her friend had marriage plans and couldn't go.
"Let me have those orders!" she said. "I'll take them!"
She met her husband there, a Navy man named Norman who countered his wife's pragmatic organization with laid-back levity. At their wedding, they danced to the words "When I fall in love, it will be forever."
She worked as a nurse in Annapolis. Md., while raising four children. They never went to the doctor. When they were hurt, mom fixed it. By 13, one of her daughters knew how to administer stitches.
In retirement, the couple settled in Spring Hill, where Mrs. Dugas loved playing cards, going to church and watching birds at the feeder outside her villa.
"They were free," said her daughter, Paula Thomas.
For special meals, Mrs. Dugas set the table elaborately and took a photo before food destroyed the plates. She raised flowers. Her favorite was a night blooming cereus, which opened each year for one night only. She'd stay awake and call to her husband to see.
As he lay dying in the hospital in 2004, the flower bloomed. She took a photo and brought it to him, determined he wouldn't miss it.
Recently, Mrs. Dugas battled a blood disorder. While under Hospice care, she tracked all her medication on charts and logs. She told nurses when she was supposed to take things. They loved her.
Over a couple months, relatives came from all over the country to say goodbye. They didn't know how long she could hold on.
But Mrs. Dugas was endowed with determination.
Days after visiting with her last grandchild, she died. She was 87.
Stephanie Hayes can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 893-8857.