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Mrs. Laura H. Yergan of Keswick, Virginia, a former Captain in the
U.S. Public Health Service who taught nursing in developing nations
around the world for 36 years, died Sunday, December 29 at the Univer-
sity of Virginia Hospital in Charlottesville, Virginia ten days after being
stricken by a massive stroke. She was 80-years-old.
Born Laura Ann Holloway to Laurence and Cheyenne Holloway on
January, 18, 1916 in New York, New York, she attended the New York
City Public School system and worked as a seamstress in New York City.
Inspired by the Negro nurse movement of the 1930's, she enrolled in and
soon graduated with honors from the former Harlem School of Nursing in
1941. Her academic success allowed her to enter Columbia University,
where she earned her 1B.A. and Masters degrees in Nursing Education
from Teacher's College. During this time in American history, Black
students were barred from many U.S. campuses, with even fewer attend-
ing Ivy League Universities.
She was the widow of the late Mark Yergan.
She began her professional career in 1941 as a staff nurse at Harlem
Hospital in New York. She was also a Public Heath Nurse in Hartford,
Connecticut and for the New York City Department of Health before
becoming Evening Nurse Supervisor at Harlem Hospital in 1947. In 1950,
Mrs. Yergan accepted her first overseas assignment as the Superintendent
of Nurses Education for the Protestant Episcopal Missionary Society in
Liberia, West Africa.
Returning to the United States in 1952, Mrs. Yergan was a relief
Supervisor at Francis Delafield Hospital. Mrs. Yergan became increasingly
distressed by the racism and segregation faced by Black nurses in the
United States. Rather than suffer the indignity of racial bias and little
opportunity for professional advancement in the U.S., she accepted a
commission in 1953 as a Captain with the United States Public Health
Service and returned overseas.
For the next three years Yergan served as a nurse educator in French
Indochina (now Vietnam) before being evacuated by French soldiers near
the end of France's occupation of Vietnam in 1956. She later served as a
Nurse Educational Advisor to the World Heath Organization (WHO) of
the United Nations and the United States Agency For International Devel-
opment (USAID) in Pakistan and Lebanon and in more than 20 other
countries on the African continent; concluding with an assignment from
U.S.A.I.D. to Barbados, W.I.
Mrs. Yergan then accepted a teaching position as Professor of Nursing
at then College of the Virgin Islands. Serving as Chairperson of the
Division of Nursing Education from 1970-1973, she was awarded $250,000
in Federal Grants for a Survey of Nursing Needs and Resources in the
Virgin Islands. Upon her retirement from the university, she returned to
the African continent where she served as a consultant on nursing educa-
tion to the nations of Swaziland and Malawi from 1978 -1983. Her tenure
in Swaziland led to the opening of that nation's first government school of
In her retirement in 1984 she returned to the Virgin Islands and
worked as a Paralegal for the U.S. Virgin Islands Legal Services. In 1988,
Mrs. Yergan moved to Virginia, living in Louisa for several years on a
part-time basis before moving to Keswick in 1991 to live near property
owned by her late grandfather freed Virginia slave Robert Marks on
land that is now part of the Keswick Country Club.
Most recently in 1995, she visited Belize, South America, to participate
in a project to save Howler monkeys in the rainforests.
A member of the former, National Association of Colored Graduate
Nurses; American Nurses Association; and the National League For Nurs-
ing; Mrs. Yergan was also a member of the Pi Lambda Theta and Kappa
Delta Pi societies; NAACP and the League of Women Voters. She was
later appointed to the Board of Nurse Licensure of the Virgin Islands and
served as President of the Virgin Islands State Nursing Association. As
president of the VISNA, Yergan was instrumental in the first strike by
Registered Nurses against Department of Health hospitals and public
heath facilities, winning concessions for better pay, working conditions
and treatment of nurses. She also served as a permanent Director of the
Board of the Jones-Holloway-Bryan Foundation on St. Thomas, V.I., a
foundation that honors her sister, the late Ruth Jones, Director of Cus-
toms, U.S.V.I. and her late brother-in-law, the Hon. J. Raymond Jones, a
member of the New York City Council.
As a member of the Trinity Episcopal Church, in Charlottesville, Yergan
was a member of the church's Day Care Board. She was also involved with
many local organizations including the AARP, the Piedmont Senior Com-
munity Center and the Charlottesville Senior Citizen's Center, where she
organized the annual "Senior Showcase." She was also a volunteer at the
Hospice of Piedmont and a foster grandparent to several
Mrs. Yergan is survived by her daughter, Mrs. Catherine Webster, of
Freeport, New York; two grandsons, Paul Webster of Albany, New York,
and Graydon Webster of San Diego, California; and several cousins and
special friends, the Grybowski family and Elizabeth Sanchez.
A memorial service was held at the Trinity Methodist Church on
Thursday, January 2 at 11:00 a.m., Rev. Melana Nelson Amaker officiat-
ing. Arrangements were by the R.L. Gilliam Funeral Home. It was Mrs.
Yergan's wish to be cremated and her remains scattered over the Carib-
bean Sea off St.Thomas, USVI.
Rev. C. Warren Smith... Officiating
Rev. C. Warren Smith
^% ^e ?/eaa/(zy
John 16:5-15 ... Catherine Webster
Lord's Prayer... Kirk Grybowski
Judith Grybowski and Elizabeth Sanchez
Rev. C. Warren Smith
Rev. C. Warren Smith
To God Be the Glory