Eleanor Morad
Eleanor Morad in a 1996 photo, three years before she retired from the Army.

A salute to service - 50 years dedicated to the lives of others

By Eleni Collins - September 13, 2007

When Eleanor Morad retired to the Island, the only thing she retired from was a full-time work schedule. Since receiving her doctorate in education in 1987, she has been putting her own education to the test at hospitals, colleges, the United States military, and now on Martha's Vineyard.

"I'm finding it hard to let go completely," she said, sitting on her sofa inside her Vineyard Haven home.

Ms. Morad officially moved here from New Bedford in 1999 after summering on the Island since 1992. Soon after moving here permanently, she began to work at the Vineyard Nursing Association (VNA) and Martha's Vineyard Community Services (MVCS), volunteer at Camp Jabberwocky, and spend her down time at the Vineyard Haven Yacht Club.

"I wanted to keep my hand in nursing," said Ms. Morad, about her move to the Island. And that she has. She has been with MVCS for two and a half years working in the counseling center and with chronic schizophrenics.

She also works at the VNA one day a week, per-diem. "They [VNA] always sent me on all the cases that were difficult. They'd say, 'Oh, we have a good psych case for you' and they'd send me out to see a lady or a man that really should have been hospitalized."

Having been on the faculty of McLean Hospital, a psychiatric hospital in Belmont, during the beginning of her nursing career, she was ready for difficult cases here on the Island.

Eleanor Morad
Eleanor Morad sits at her desk at Martha's Vineyard Community Services, where she works during the spring and summer. Photo by Lynn Christoffers

The work begins

After graduating from Massachusetts General Hospital's three-year nursing program, Ms. Morad stayed to work there for one year. "I worked in the operating room. I don't know why, because it's very, very tough. I worked with a lot of famous surgeons. They were doing eight-hour surgeries that weren't being done anywhere else.

"Then the veins gave out in my legs. You're standing eight hours in one spot, it's part of the job." From there, she went to McLean Hospital to work, and "loved it."

As if graduating from a nursing school that only accepted 100 out of 1,000 applicants was not enough excitement for one week, Ms. Morad pocketed the diploma and was married two days later, on September 2, 1957. As Eleanor Peloquin, she began her seven-year marriage and career at McLean Hospital, from 1957 to 1964. She and her husband lived in Belmont and raised two boys, Norman and Luke.

When they divorced in 1964, Ms. Morad moved back to her family in New Bedford, leaving the psychiatric hospital. "My family insisted I move back because they were really worried about me. I had two small kids, and I needed more support. He was in college the whole time we were married. I kind of supported the family. It was a good move, and it was probably a wise move. At the time I felt bad about it, but I'm not sorry looking back."

Though decades have passed since vacating her position at McLean, she has kept her connection with the hospital. Currently, a doctor from the psychiatric hospital comes to MVCS once a week to treat patients and Ms. Morad facilitates these visits. "I probably would have stayed there all of my career if we hadn't split up."

Before the divorce, Ms. Morad began her quest for her baccalaureate at Boston College. After moving to New Bedford, she finished at the University of Massachusetts in Dartmouth. From there it was on to her masters, which she obtained while working as a faculty member at the St. Luke's School of Nursing in Rhode Island. "Between '64 and '72, I was trying to finish my education and get my baccalaureate. And I did it; I finished in '72. And in another three years I got my masters at the University of Rhode Island."

Though she knew it was not necessary for a job, Ms. Morad then went for her doctorate at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. With her boys busy in college, Ms. Morad taught at Bristol Community College, which her youngest attended, and drove to Amherst in time for late afternoon classes.

"I went to school and worked full-time. It took me a little longer, but getting my doctorate was also a desire. The same year my oldest boy graduated from law school. We graduated together."

Military time

When asked her most gratifying experience from her 50-year nursing career, Ms. Morad had no reservations.

"I was in the military for 21 and a half years. I was in the army nursing core reserves. I never got activated, but could have, and almost did with the Persian Gulf War."

Two days before she was to be shipped off, a peace agreement was signed. Ms. Morad considers herself very lucky, but adds that she would have gone.

From traveling to Panama and Germany, to working in inflatable hospitals in the wilderness to support military training camps, Ms. Morad remains passionate about her time in the service. "I went to Honduras to vaccinate, flew helis to villages, forged streams. That to me was more memorable - my military experience," she recalled. "I actually got to take care of soldiers who got wounded in training. That's not the kind of nursing you get in civilian life."

Ms. Morad went into the service at age 40, though the cutoff date is 35. She says it's because she had her masters and was working on her doctorates. "They went and found you," she said. When she told her oldest brother, he was shocked, and told her to request to be a field officer, "which is major, it's not a junior position," she explained.

"They're never gonna take you at that," she recalled her brother telling her, followed with, "I don't believe this," when she told him she'd been accepted as a major.

"Twenty-one and a half years later when I got out I was a colonel," Ms. Morad said. "Two promotions. That's not a heck of a lot in 21 years, but I went in as such a high rank."

Ms. Morad's base, the 399th combat support hospital out of Taunton, is currently active and stationed in Iraq. Though she willingly signed her children over to her brother when she entered the service, she is weary of new mothers following suit. "I don't think they should ship mothers out like that. I wouldn't have signed up if I had small babies. Being a single mom, I mean."

With her military and hospital careers behind her, she divides her summers with two nursing positions, among sailing and motor boating, and her favorite pastime, volunteering at Camp Jabberwocky. "This was my 14th summer, and I'll do it until I can't see and walk. I get so much out of that."

This September marks her 50th year anniversary of nursing. She'll attend her alumni weekend at the end of the month at Mass. General. After that, she'll head to central Florida where she winters, close to her sister, and spend the months playing softball, golf, and swimming.

Eleanor Morad remembers her mother's words, which ring true to this day. "My mother used to say I blew in with the March winds, and I haven't stopped moving."