Alicia Kelley-Leger 1950-2006

AliciaKelleyPix.jpgOn Friday, March 10, the Santa Barbara
community lost a consummate nursing professional, Alicia
Kelley-Leger. She was the entire package: An administrator who
attended countless meetings, oversaw budgets, and supervised
hundreds of nurses at Cottage Health System, Alicia also sat by
patients’ bedsides, holding hands and offering words of comfort. We
will miss Alicia on so many levels — as a leader, colleague, and,
most of all, warm and loving friend.

A Nurse of the Highest Calling Of all the
titles Alicia held in her life — wife, sister, daughter, godmother,
aunt, and friend — the title Registered Nurse defined the core of
her personality and was evident in her compassion and huge heart.
To Alicia, as is true for many of us, nursing was not just a good
job; it was a calling. When asked why she was so passionate about
nursing, Alicia had many experiences and stories from which to
choose, but she always chose this one: As a new nurse working in
labor and delivery in a small hospital in Northern California,
Alicia was caring for two laboring mothers on the same night. One
mother delivered a healthy baby, while in the next room the other
mother delivered a stillborn. Each was unaware of the other. As
Alicia went back and forth between the rooms, she celebrated with
tears of joy and laughter with one family, and consoled and cried
tears of sadness with the other family. As Alicia stood in the hall
between the two rooms, she suddenly realized what a gift and
blessing she had been given to be allowed to participate in such
significant human events, ones that a family will maintain for a
lifetime. This sense of being blessed — of being called to the
profession of nursing — shaped and defined her life, her
relationships, and her career path. Year after year, newly hired
nurses heard Alicia, their chief nursing officer at Cottage, speak
from her heart about the impact a nurse has on the lives of
patients and families. This always moved and inspired them as they
began their own careers. Those of us privileged to work with Alicia
in either a staff or management position were constantly challenged
and encouraged to be the best nurses we could be and to pass on her
legacy expressed so simply: “Be heroes — do good work and be nice
to each other!” — Sherrie Grimes and Donna Yacobian

A Friend Beyond Comparison Although I knew
Alicia for almost half my life, it is not the longevity but the
quality of our friendship that I most cherish. She was always
available and lent her assistance in every possible way. When my
mother required surgery, Alicia took the handrail of her gurney,
walking and talking with her until they reached the operating room
doors. With the unfortunate passing of my father-in-law, she
remained with us in the intensive care unit until the very last
moment. Alicia took the time to share in my oldest daughter’s high
school graduation celebration. And she was right there with me for
my youngest daughter’s birth. She brought apples and cheese to help
pass the time. I remember saying, “I do not want your apples and
cheese! Just find me that darn doctor with the drugs!” And she
did — I don’t even think it was because I was choking her by the
shirt collar. Now that is a true friend. There is a small group of
girlfriends who gather on my deck at home. We laugh, cry, and
encourage each other no matter how small or large the issue; we
celebrate even the smallest feat. We just email each other, “Deck
night?” Alicia never missed an invitation. Deck night will continue
and we’ll just pull up her chair. To others it will appear to be
empty, but we will always know where she is sitting. AK, I love you
and you will always be my best friend. See ya on the deck!
— Catherine Monclus

Alicia Kelley-Leger died in an auto accident in Goleta on
Friday, March 10. Her memorial service on Friday, March 17 was
attended by about 1,000 people, including legislators, doctors,
nurses, Cottage staff, family, and friends.

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