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Photo submitted to Times Observer Hanna Ketzko received a Mary Edwards Conarro nursing scholarship. Pictured, left to right, are Robert Kaemmerer, executive director of the Warren County Community Foundation, Ketzko, Conarro and Venango Technology Center’s practical nursing coordinator Dr. Cindy Cornelius.

A family tradition of nursing that dates back four generations is gaining momentum by helping others grow in the same calling.

Hanna Ketzko received a Mary Edwards Conarro Nursing Scholarship to complete her final semester in the Venango Technology Center Registered Nursing Program through the Warren-Forest Higher Education Council.

“A burning desire to help others through health care and volunteerism has spawned a lasting legacy of scholarship to nurses in the region – thanks to Mary Edwards Conarro,” the Community Foundation of Warren County said in a news release. “Mary’s passion for nursing spans four generations in her family. Starting with his mother, Letitia Rooney Edwards; Mary herself; Mary’s daughter, Mary Ann Conarro Carlson; and now Mary’s granddaughters, Morgan and Alexandria Conarro, have all been nurses.

“In 2019, Mary decided she wanted to create her own legacy of philanthropy by establishing the Mary Edwards Conarro Endowed Nursing Scholarship,” according to the press release. “This fund is at the Community Foundation of Warren County, and Mary has her own selection committee that chooses the recipients of the annual awards.

The hope is that the scholarship will encourage local students to train locally to work in the community.

“Recognizing the shortage of nurses due to pandemic-caused burnout in 2021 and 2022, Mary’s Fellowship will support the growing need to locally train nurses to work in our Warren County community,” according to the Community Foundation. “Mary’s desire is to foster continuing education to encourage students to obtain a license at the level of a Registered Nurse (RN), and along the way she is willing to offer that support to our local program of a an Warren-Forest Hi-Ed provided by Venango Technology Center, two-year programs or four-year programs. Mary’s scholarship supports both traditional and non-traditional means of education.

“After meeting (Warren General Hospital’s Chief Nursing Officer) Joe Akif, Mary found out that starting salaries for nurses in our small town were $62,000 a year, so Mary considers a incredible return on investment if the students she helps stay in Warren County after they graduate,” said the Community Foundation.

Conarro was inspired, in very different ways, to become a nurse by both of her parents.

Letitia Edwards “decided to become a nurse, earned a nursing degree from Brooklyn Hospital, and began her nursing career caring for her cancer patient, John Edwards, at home,” according to the press release. “While caring for Mr. Edwards, Letitia met her brother, Clarence, fell in love, married him and they became the proud parents of Mary. After starting her family, Letitia gave up her career nurse and instead began volunteering in the health field to help those in need.

Conarro’s father suffered a serious injury as a child and, seeking the treatment he needed, was taken from their home in Hempstead, Long Island, to St. Luke’s Hospital in New York.

“Also, Mary had a friend whose mother was a nurse,” according to the press release. “These had such an impact on Mary that it derailed her original dream of attending Pratt Institute in Brooklyn for a fashion design degree. three-year-old nurses at St. Luke’s, graduating in 1954 at age 20. Her father had paid the hefty sum of $500 for the three years.

Conarro’s daughter carried on the tradition, although it started in a different direction.

“After a 22-year teaching career, Mary Ann Conarro Carlson graduated from nursing as a non-traditional student at age 46,” according to the press release. “Mary Ann is currently employed at a wound care clinic in Richmond, Virginia.

The fourth generation is now in the field.

“Morgan and Alexandria Conarro, Mary’s granddaughters, both with Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degrees, are currently at Boston Children’s Hospital, which in 2021 was recognized by US News and World Report as the best children’s hospital in the country for the eighth consecutive year”, the statement said.

“Similar to her mother, Mary Ethel Edwards started her career as a nurse working at St. Luke’s for a year, then decided she wanted to go into teaching public health in Hempstead County” , according to the press release. “It was there that she met her future husband, Hal Conarro, during a game of bridge. Soon after, they were married and moved to Hal’s hometown of Warren, Pennsylvania, where she went to work at Warren General Hospital.

She started her family and gave up her nursing career, like her mother.

Since then, she has given her time and dedication to many organizations.

“Mary never forgot her parents’ motto: ‘Leave your country better than you found it'” according to the press release.

Mary’s husband Hal and lifelong friend and fellow Dartmouth graduate Bob Sokolski were entrepreneurs and started their own hugely successful company, Whirley Industries, in 1970. Both are revered in Warren for their legendary philanthropy and it rubbed off on both of their wives, Mary and Sally.

“Mary’s legacy will now live on in perpetuity”, according to the press release. “There is no better way to leave a gift to your community than this. She hopes her story will encourage others to define their own personal legacies to improve and sustain the quality of life in Warren County.



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