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Bob Lind, Published December 13 2012

Lind: Moorhead woman lived dream by becoming nurse

Lois Ebentier, of Moorhead, satisfied a dream when she became a nurse, just like her mom.

It was a fulfilling profession for her, even if it did mean dealing with flooding, taking a scary ambulance ride and becoming something of a cocktail waitress. But it also gave her a chance to help a famous performer and to assist his sidekick who had a real up-and-down hang-up.

A flood in Fargo

She started life as Lois Lyon in St. Paul, where she graduated from high school in 1939. Her mother, Alice, was a nurse who graduated from Bethesda Hospital, St. Paul, in 1916.

After graduating, Lois took a summer job caring for a diabetic neighbor woman who was disabled. She later became an aide in the New Rockford (N.D.) hospital, and then returned to St. Paul to work in St. John’s Hospital, where a helpful administrator had her work in various departments to get a handle on what nursing would be like.

In 1942, Lois entered nurse training in Fargo at St. John’s Hospital which, in 1943, was flooded by the Red River. A makeshift bridge was constructed from the hospital’s front door to the front door of the nurses’ residence across the street, from where the students could go out the back door to higher ground.

Those students helped evacuate the hospital, and some of them took care of the patients who were moved to Sacred Heart Academy in north Fargo.

Lois completed her training in Harvey, N.D., and became a registered nurse.

Dean and Jerry

Lois met and married Joseph Ryan, of St. Paul. They lived in several Twin Cities communities and had 10 children, all while Lois was working.

One night she was on duty in an emergency room when a famed movie-TV team came in: Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis.

The pair were doing a show in Minneapolis when Lewis fell and injured his back.

One of Lois’ helpers took Lewis in an elevator to a room where Lois taped his back. But Martin took the stairs, both up and, with Lois beside him, coming down because, Lois learned, he had a phobia about elevators.

Serving ‘cocktails’

Lois worked in several hospitals, and her experiences piled up.

One of her jobs was passing around the “cocktail cart” to the patients, most of whom were having their annual physicals. The “cocktails” actually were a mixture of laxatives they had to take.

Joseph and Lois divorced, so she and the kids moved to Crosby, Minn., where she worked full time in the hospital.

One time a young boy came to the emergency room with gunshot wounds in both legs due to a hunting accident. Lois and others took him by ambulance to the University of Minnesota Hospital, Minneapolis, but it was rough going. The road was filled with hunters, few of whom would get out of the way for the ambulance despite its siren and lights. They finally drove in the north-bound lane where north-bound drivers did yield to them.

A police escort picked them up in Anoka and got them to the hospital. That trip made a big story in the next day’s St. Paul Pioneer Press.

Lois married Richard Ebentier in 1968. They and four children moved to Carrington, N.D., where she worked part time at the hospital and at Holy Family Guest Home for 15 years.

At one time, the hospital’s only ambulance was a funeral home’s station wagon, which no doubt led to some startled looks when a funeral home’s vehicle tore down the road at high speed.

When Lois and Richard started the Ebentier Trucking company, Lois became its bookkeeper while working part time at the hospital and home and being a wife and mom. The Ebentiers later sold their business.

Lois became an emergency medical technician in 1977, was named to the state EMT board and taught EMT courses in Carrington.

Finally, in 1982, she retired from all medical aspects of her life. She sold craft items for a while, and then she and Richard moved to Moorhead in 2004. Richard died two years later.

What about those 10 Ryan kids?

Well, in order of birth, Daniel, 65, lives in the Twin Cities; Micheal had a military career, then lived in St. Paul and died of cancer in 2010; Gerald is retired from the military and lives near Motley, Minn.; and Kathleen Imsdahl is an LPN at the Lake Placid (Fla.) hospital.

Twins, a boy and girl, died shortly after birth; Patrick lives in Omaha, Neb.; Richard lives in Williston, N.D.; Robert lives in Fargo and works for the city; and Jeffery, 50, lives near St. Paul; he has Down syndrome.

Medical profession genes have been passed around in the family. Lois has a grandson who is a paramedic, another grandson in college who is considering a medical profession, a granddaughter who is an EMT, and a niece and nephew who are registered nurses. But it’s unknown if any of them have had to deal with floods. Or cocktail carts.


If you have an item of interest for this column, mail it to Neighbors, The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107; fax it to (701) 241-5487; or email blind@forumcomm.com