Brigtta Hochstein Dobmeier, C’34
A Nurse’s Calling
Brigitta Hochstein Dobmeier will celebrate her 100th birthday on June 7, 2016, making her Mount Marty College’s oldest living alumni. As the milestone birthday draws near, Brigitta shared stories of her life and career, along with a piece of advice for the next generation of MMC students.
On June 7, 2016, family and friends from across the country will travel to the small town of Dimmit, Texas, to be with Mount Marty alumna Brigitta Hochstein Dobmeier as she celebrates her 100th birthday. Family has always been the most important thing in Brigitta’s life, and her 12 children, their spouses, more than 30 grandchildren, 35 great-grandchildren and even a few great-great-grandchildren will be there for the big celebration.
Bridges to opportunity
Brigitta is a 1934 graduate of Mount Marty High School and a 1937 graduate of Sacred Heart School of Nursing. Growing up around Hartington, Nebraska, she saw Mount Marty as the most logical place to further her education in the medical field as a nurse. She enjoyed the fact that the school was just across the river and so close to home - and she has many fond memories of her time there.
“There were usually four or five girls that would pool their money and buy a quart of beer to drink while we relaxed down by the river,” Brigitta says.
At that time, there was a toll fee for crossing the bridge over the Missouri River. To help save her family money, Brigitta would walk across the bridge and meet her family on the Nebraska side.
Vivida and Yarh, two of Brigitta’s closest friends at Mount Marty, were from Bohemia, and Brigitta loved when the three friends would travel home and bring back homemade treats from their mother.
She also remembers how different nursing was back when she got her start. Students didn’t have the opportunity to work in hospitals when Brigitta was in school. Rather, they learned all they could from books. Still, Brigitta embraced the opportunity. She enjoyed Mount Marty and says she loved those early nursing experiences.
Country medicine and the ‘miracle drug’
After graduating from the Sacred Heart School of Nursing in 1937, Brigitta moved to Texas to help her sister Veronica, who was pregnant. Shortly after the baby was born, a doctor from Dimmit, Texas, was visiting Veronica and the newborn and found out that Brigitta was an RN. Proclaiming the current shortage of nurses, he offered Brigitta a job that day. Because Texas paid nurses significantly better than Nebraska, Brigitta says it was an easy decision. Still, she laughs when she remembers what a higher salary meant back then.
“I made $80 a month, maybe, but a far cry from what nurses are paid now,” she says.
At the Dimmit hospital, Brigitta worked with Dr. Miller, whom she refers to as “rough and tough” but she greatly respected and admired. Dr. Miller was a great family doctor, Brigitta says, and the pair would make house calls via horse and buggy in the country to check on pregnant women. Brigitta remembers how cold those rides sometimes were. She and Dr. Miller could be at a single home all day waiting for a baby to be born, and though most babies were born healthy and into good hands, others were born premature. To help keep the babies warm, she and Dr. Miller would wrap up warm bricks and lay them in bed with the newborns.
Brigitta smiles when she remembers the fathers of the babies they were delivering.
“They were so nervous and always in the way, so Dr. Miller would tell me to have them boil water and keep the water boiling,” she says with a laugh. “We never needed the water, but it kept the men from being under foot.”
Back in those days, nurses did anything and everything. If a patient had body aches, Brigitta would give back rubs, foot rubs, baths, feeding, administer medication and whatever else needed to be done.
“Nursing was very busy,” she says.
One specific memory Brigitta recalls was taking care of Sister Caritase, a nun who was very ill.
“Maybe it was pneumonia,” she says. “I’m not sure, but Sister already had the rails in her chest, which was a sure sign that death was near.”
When Dr. Miller came in and told Brigitta that Sister Caritase was dying, he had a vial of a new medicine that was sent to him â€” something that was supposed to be a “miracle drug.” Dr. Miller told Brigitta to administer this medicine and stay with Sister Caritase through the night. By the next day, the Sister was feeling significantly better, and she ended up recovering completely.
That miracle drug was penicillin. And Brigitta had just administered the first dose of penicillin in Castro County.
Building a family
In December 1938, Brigitta Hochstein married Leo Dobmeier, and the couple lived together on a farm in Nazareth, Texas, 12 miles from Dimmit. Brigitta continued working with Dr. Miller after the wedding, and when Brigitta and Leo’s first child was born in 1942, Brigitta began working night shifts so Leo could be home with the baby through the night. Leo was always supportive of Brigitta and her nursing career, and it wasn’t until after having her fifth child that Brigitta decided to stay home full time.
Brigitta and Leo lived a farm life. They grew crops, planted gardens, canned, preserved food and butchered livestock, and they were known to hold large barbecue meals for their friends and neighbors. Brigitta says she can’t begin to guess the number of chickens she butchered and fried or how many cookies, pies and cakes she baked.
“It’s too many to count!” she says.
Their family life was one filled with love and care. One memory she loves to share is how she and Leo bathed the children. Brigitta would get the children into the tub and wash them. Then it was Leo’s job to dry them and dress them in their pajamas. Although no longer working with patients, Brigitta’s nursing experience was put to good use caring for her children as they took their turns with mumps, chicken pox, fevers and the flu.
Brigitta and Leo had 13 children, one who was stillborn. In 1965, her oldest son, Ronald, was killed in a car accident. Her husband, Leo, was killed in a car accident two years later. At the time, Brigitta had six children still living at home. Those were difficult years, she says, but she guided her family through as best she could. Â
Â “You do what you have to do,” she says. “Some times are harder than others, but you just have to keep doing what needs done.”
Advice for the next generation
In addition to nursing and raising her family, Brigitta has been an active fixture in her community. She’s been a member of Holy Family Catholic Church since 1930 and has also been a charter member of numerous church women’s groups throughout the years. She’s always enjoyed spending time with senior citizens, playing cards and dominoes. Brigitta loves games, and even today, when her family visiting, she can be found sitting around the table playing cards. Her hobbies also include embroidery, as evidenced by the numerous pillowcases and quilts displaying her handiwork. She has also been a proud supporter of local sports teams and attended games well into her 80s. To this day, she enjoys watching sports on TV.
When asked what advice she has for high school students getting ready to start college, Brigitta keeps it simple.
“Hit the books,” she says, “and learn the things that need to be learned.”
Mount Marty College is beyond blessed to count Brigitta as an alumna, and the college wishes her all the best. With so many of her loved ones in attendance this June, her 100th birthday party will be one for the record books.
Happy Birthday, Brigitta!