ST. PETERSBURG — Classmates teased the children of James Pittenger over what he did for a living.
"I would say, 'My dad's a nurse,' " said Susan Lewis, Mr. Pittenger's daughter. "They would say to me, 'You mean he's a doctor?' "
James Pittenger was part of the 20th century's earliest wave of male nurses, a category excluded from the American Nurses Association until 1930.
He never wanted to be a doctor.
"They asked me if he wore funny little hats and skirts to work," said Lewis, 65.
Her father found the taunts amusing. "He loved it," Lewis said.
The neighborhood kids in Schenectady, N.Y., weren't laughing when they took a spill off their bicycle or sprained an ankle playing.
They showed up at the front door, knowing "Mr. Pitt" would treat their scrapes and bandage their wounds.
He was a member of the Jersey City Medical Center School of Nursing's Class of 1939, the third year the school admitted male students. He became a registered nurse. The Army used him mightily for four years during World War II, putting him in charge of all medical records at Tripler Army Medical Center in Honolulu.
He met Anne Moore at a New Year's Eve party two weeks after his discharge. They married and moved to Schenectady. Mr. Pittenger worked at the nearby Albany VA Medical Center until his retirement in 1968.
Mr. Pittenger was born in Red Bank, N.J., in 1914. He played the violin as a boy. He was quiet and liked to read about animals, his daughter said.
Later, he played with the Schenectady orchestra and taught violin. Along with their two children, the couple always had dogs in the house. A couple of favorites over the years included Lassie, a collie; and Condition (Condi for short), a Boston terrier.
Mr. Pittenger retired in 1968 and moved to St. Petersburg. However, he soon earned a Florida nursing license and worked at the former William and Mary Nursing Home until 1989.
He enjoyed the constants in his life — bicycling along the streets and alleys of the Old Northeast neighborhood, tending his many fruit trees and playing poker.
"He had a good poker face. It's a nurse trait," said Lewis, a retired nurse herself.
After Anne died in 2001, Mr. Pittenger moved to a condominium, where he lived independently. Ten months ago he moved to Bon Secours Place, an assisted living facility. His daughter was with him when he died March 18.
"I had just walked in the room and kissed him on the head," his daughter said. "I told him I loved him and he stopped breathing.
"The hospice girl who had been there all night looked at me and said, 'Well, he was waiting for you.' And I guess he was."
Mr. Pittenger was 98.
Andrew Meacham can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 892-2248.