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Col. Teresa Geisler Goldner, who worked with Jonas Salk, dies at 90

Terry Goldner's parents made her wait until she was 21 before enlisting in the Army.

“Her parents did not want her to enlist. She was just determined to do it and did,” said Mary Alice Jack of Economy, her niece.

Col. Teresa Geisler Goldner, a retired Air Force and Army veteran and a physical therapist who worked with Dr. Jonas Salk during clinical trials of the polio vaccine, died Saturday, Jan. 25, 2014. She was 90.

Col. Goldner, who lived in Cranberry, was one of 12 children and grew up on Pittsburgh's North Side. She was a graduate of St. Benedict Academy in Ross. She later studied at the former St. John School of Nursing in the North Side.

In 1945, she enlisted in the Army and was sent to Okinawa, Japan, as part of a MASH unit.

“She got there after the war ended. The boat she took to Okinawa traveled through a typhoon,” Jack said Col. Goldner left the Army in 1946 and returned to Pittsburgh, where she earned a bachelor's degree at the University of Pittsburgh and studied physical therapy at the D.T. Watson School of Physical Therapy.

Col. Goldner worked as a physical therapist aiding polio patients at the former Municipal Hospital during Salk's research at the hospital to develop the polio vaccine.

“That was a big part of her life. She was working with kids who were in iron lungs and rocking beds and really wanted to see a breakthrough,” said Maryann Long of McCandless, Col. Goldner's niece.

Long described her aunt as a strong-willed pioneer.

“She did a lot for me, and I loved her,” Long said.

In 1959, Col. Goldner enlisted in the Air Force, where she spent the next two decades working as a nurse and physical therapist.

Col. Goldner was stationed all over the world, including tours in Germany, Japan, and Hawaii. One of her patients was Barry Goldwater, a longtime senator from Arizona and the 1964 Republican presidential nominee.

Col. Goldner married James A. Goldner when she was in her 40s, relatives said. The couple retired in Florida.

In addition to her nieces, Col. Goldner is survived by two stepchildren; Michael Goldner of Cranston, R.I., and Kathleen King of Coventry, R.I.; and two brothers, Martin Geisler of Murrysville and Regis Geisler of Muncie, Ind.

Visitation will be from 4 to 7 p.m. Wednesday at Schellhaas and Sons Funeral Home and Cremation Services in Franklin Park. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Thursday in St. Ferdinand Parish, Cranberry.

Col. Goldner will be buried in Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.

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