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100-year-old Mercy resident has spent much of her life there

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When Mercy Care Center of Northern New York closes within the next few months, so will many chapters in Helen G. Osier’s life.

Mrs. Osier, who celebrated her 100th birthday Dec. 20, spent her entire adulthood dedicated to Mercy. Its nuns in the early and mid-1900s were a second family and teachers she said she’ll never forget.

Before she attended the Mercy Hospital School of Nursing in 1930, Mrs. Osier, known back then as Linna Keruskie, was raised by nuns at St. Patrick’s Children’s Home, Coffeen Street.

“I’d say as a child I didn’t have anything,” she said. “I used to lay on the floor and look out at the sun.”

Her parents came here from Poland in 1909, and three years later, Helen was born. Her parents had a few other children close in age.

“One day her mother took the youngest on a trolley and they never saw their mother again,” said Mary Lu Brotherton, Mrs. Osier’s daughter. “She had a brother she never saw again, and mom had a brother in the orphanage with her, but back then boys and girls didn’t even walk up the same stairs. She had no contact with her brother there except through a fence.”

Mrs. Osier’s father took her to the orphanage shortly after her mother left. When she left the orphanage at age 13, in 1925, she had only 15 cents to her name, Ms. Brotherton said. Mrs. Osier then was boarded at Immaculate Heart Academy until she graduated, at 18, in 1930.

Since she grew up with nuns, attending nursing school, which was overseen by the nuns, was a natural progression.

“I got into a room where bedpans were and I said I’m going to find out how good of a nurse I am and clean these,” Mrs. Osier said, recalling her first days at Mercy. “They’d never clean those and you never know if it was yours or someone else’s.”

She graduated from nursing school March 10, 1933, and married her husband, Charles, a day later.

After being responsible for kitchen work, Mrs. Osier was able to move from floor to floor and provide direct patient care. She moved up to become assistant director of nursing and retired in 1976.

When she left Mercy Hospital each day and when she retired, she took her love of nursing with her. She even gave the family dog stitches when it got caught in a barbed wire fence, leaving a gash.

After Mrs. Osier lived with Ms. Brotherton for 24 years, the family moved her into Mercy Care Center in February 2011. She lost her vision a year later. Her family said while the move to Mercy was met with some resistance, it also was a homecoming.

“I wanted a place close to home, and when we found an opening here, I was happy,” Ms. Brotherton said. “She’s seen the hospital in all stages of the building. She’s seen a lot of the comings and goings. One of the things she asked when she came here is, ‘Where’s my nursing pin?’”

Mrs. Osier said she even wants to be buried with it when she dies; that’s how much Mercy and its nuns mean to her.

When Mercy closes in the next few months, Ms. Brotherton said, she will be sad for her mother.

“She isn’t terribly happy some days about moving. This is her home,” Ms. Brotherton said.

“This is her life,” said Robert G. Osier, Helen’s son.

Mrs. Osier said both nursing and Mercy will always be close to her heart.

“When I was here, I used to ask the girls taking care of me what to do and at what times, and how do you do it?” She said. “I’d tell them if they were doing it right. Well, they didn’t like me telling them that.”

Ms. Brotherton said her mother had cared about the nursing profession so much that she paid close attention to detail and always worked by the book. She also doesn’t like change, but only hopes some people she’s called neighbors and friends the past couple of years are able to move to whichever facility she and her family choose.

“Everyone hates to see the hospital go,” Ms. Brotherton said. Although Mercy has been a skilled-nursing facility for many years, the Osier family still refers to it as the hospital.

“I’d probably try to find someone to make it something else,” Mrs. Osier said. “I’d feel bad I couldn’t tell about the nursing anymore.”

Mrs. Osier is the last living member of her Mercy Hospital School of Nursing graduating class and attended every annual alumni banquet until she was 98.

As the family looks for a new facility for Mrs. Osier, Mercy’s administration and Samaritan Medical Center — the hospital that has receivership of the facility until Samaritan Summit Village opens this spring — are working on a closure plan. Once that plan is approved by the state Department of Health, Mercy will close and its residents will relocate.

Mrs. Osier said when that time comes, it will be difficult saying goodbye to her much of her life.

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