Fresno State nursing alumnae will be among the thousands of veterans participating in the historic Fresno Veterans Day Parade on Nov. 11. The Central California Center for Excellence in Nursing at Fresno State is proud to honor Marie Hoemke (left, 1962) and Pam Loewen (right, 1966), both of whom served in the military respectively. The parade is hailed as the largest Veteran’s Day parade on the West Coast, with over 9,000 participants. It will be televised locally and by the Armed Forces Network worldwide to all military bases and posts.
Each of the Fresno State alums have led a decorated and honorable nursing career in the military that spans multiple decades.
Marie Hoemke has served in the U.S. Army Nurse Corps, as a staff nurse, since 1961. Her journey began in Fresno, Calif., as the eldest of three children and the daughter of two proud college graduates. She followed in her parents footsteps and went on to receive her bachelor’s degree in nursing from Fresno State in 1962, and two master’s degrees: one in Public Administration from the University of San Francisco in 1987 and another in Educational Administration from San Francisco State University in 1991. It was in her junior year of college at Fresno State that she joined the Nurse Corps, to alleviate financial burdens. It was a decision that proved to be fruitful.
“In the Army, the mission for nurses for our soldiers was fascinating—quite different from civilian nursing. Military discipline and training were a challenge,” said Hoemke. “I so enjoyed working with the army nurses, doctors and medical specialists who came from different states with varied specialties. Together we formed an effective medical team for the benefit of the military and U. S. Army forces.”
Aside from the Nurse Corps, Hoemke has also worked as a staff nurse at Moffett Hospital and St. Joseph’s Hospital, both located in San Francisco. For nearly 10 years, she worked as a public health nurse for the City of San Francisco’s Department of Public Health. She served almost three decades as a school registered nurse and program administrator until her retirement with San Francisco Unified School District in 2001.
Hoemke, who resides in Napa Valley with her husband Dale, remains active on the local board of directors for the California School Nurse Organization and the Napa Valley Retired Teachers Organization. She currently works as a retired substitute teacher in Napa County, and also enjoys singing in her church choir.
Pam Loewen was a pioneer among her family and in the nursing profession, having been the first child in her family to go to college and become a nurse and the first senior public health nurse from the Fresno County Department of Public Health. Several cousins and family members would follow suit and also join the nursing field. Loewen grew up in Reedley and attended city college there, before transferring to Fresno State where she received her bachelor’s degree in nursing in 1966. Her first job out of college was in the maternity ward at Fresno County Hospital.
Loewen later entered the U.S. Air Force Nurse Corps and was stationed at Holloman Air Force Base in In New Mexico from 1975 to 1977, where she was a charge nurse for the pediatric clinic and later OB-GYN clinic, as well as consultant for the public health clinic. Once again proving to be a pioneer, Loewen was among the first nurses to receive flight nurse training, flying patients stateside. In 1977, she became a flight nurse instructor, earning her the Air Force Commendation medal and the Meritorious Service medal.
“I had 20 years of inactive reserve service with the Air Force, of reporting in yearly, and in case of war, if they needed nurses they could call you back in,” said Loewen. “I enjoyed the challenge of being an Air Force nurse, as everyday was different, and I love to fly and travel.”
Soon after, while in inactive reserve, Loewen attended graduate school at the University of Hawaii and received two master’s degree: one as a Clinical Nurse Specialist and the other in Community Health. Her career transitioned to the Monterey County Health Department where she worked from 1984 until her retirement in 2004, first as senior public health nurse and later, supervising public health nurse. She coordinated their High Risk Infant Follow-Up program for 16 years and then became the supervisor of the Tuberculosis Unit. Her hard work earned her several outstanding employee and team awards, as well as a proclamation from the Monterey County Board of Supervisors for 20 years of service.
Loewen is now retired and actively volunteers with the School of Nursing at Fresno State as its Historian and Alumni Liaison on the Nursing Legacy Project at the Center for Excellence in Nursing Education and Leadership. One of her first projects, in 2007, was putting together the nursing legacy website.
“I thought it would be great to have a website for alumni, instead of a museum, so anyone could access it,” said Loewen. “I told the nursing chair at that time that I would try to locate their alumni, which I did, and it turned out that they had about 5,000 alumni at the time. We collected their stories and photos. I’m currently trying to collect not only Fresno State nurse alumni stories, but several other local schools on nursing, from 1895 to 1958.”
In 2008, Loewen received the College of Health and Human Services’ Outstanding Top Dog award at the Fresno State Alumni Association’s Top Dog Awards Gala.
To learn more about the Nursing Legacy Project, visit their website.