Anne (Peterson) Jennings of Oak Bluffs died peacefully in her home on Sept. 28, 2016, surrounded by devoted family members and friends. She was 78.
Anne was born on June 16, 1938, in Hartford, Conn. to Rufus and Edythe Peterson. She attended Hartford schools, graduating from Bulkeley High in 1956.
Weeks prior to her death, doctors had predicted only days of survival without dialysis, but, in classic Nana form, she stretched a few days into a couple of weeks filled with joyous singing, laughter, love, miracles, and storytelling.
Anne made history in 1959 by becoming the first African-American registered nurse to graduate from Hartford Hospital School of Nursing. Following graduation, Anne worked in the labor and delivery unit of the hospital, then pursued employment ventures at Blue Hills Hospital for Substance Abuse, Women’s League Day Care Center, Times Farm Camp, Camp Courant, City of Hartford Correctional Facility, and Hartford Board of Education. It was during her service in Hartford’s public schools that she elevated her role as school nurse to successfully complete the nurse-practitioner program offered by the University of Connecticut. The nursing program was integrated into Yale’s master’s program, awarding Anne a Yale master’s degree.
Aside from her practice, Anne dedicated herself to the welfare and need of others. She raised and took in more relatives, strangers, and friends over the years than we can remember. Whether you called her Ma, Aunt Anne, Nana, Jenn, or Nurse Nana, if you were in need and she had a place to stay, you had a roof over your head.
Anne was a member of Union Baptist Church, Hartford, and First Baptist Church, Martha’s Vineyard; also, among other civic and professional organizations, a member of NAACP, Chi Eta Phi nursing sorority, Hartford Hospital Alumnae Association, National League of Nursing, and HBOE Health Professionals.
She is survived by brothers Raoul (Ray) and Manning Peterson of California and Gerard Peterson of Massachusetts and Florida; daughters Kim E. Ward of Boca Raton, Fla., Roxanne L. Smith of Hartford, and Megan B. Jennings of Oak Bluffs; grandchildren Kyle and Beth Jennings, Eric, Evan, and Raven Jennings, Amber Redding, and James Jennings. She also leaves behind numerous nieces, nephews, cousins, in-laws, and devoted friends. Besides her parents, Anne was predeceased by her beloved grandparents, Benjamin and Anna Crosby and Eliza Peterson, and brother Rufus “Butch” Peterson.
A memorial service will be held on Saturday, Oct. 8, 10 am to noon, at Union Baptist Church, 1921 Main Street, Hartford, Conn. 06210. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made online at freenana.org or mailed to Highland Estate, P.O. Box 2485, Oak Bluffs, MA 02557.
Anne’s family would like to sincerely thank all who shared condolences and comfort through prayers, calls, cards, messages, visits, donations, and love.