Janice Lufkin, decorated Navy nurse during Vietnam War, has died at 81
The Philadelphia Inquirer June 6, 2023
(Tribune News Service) — Janice Lufkin, 81, a decorated former Navy nurse, former head nurse of the cardiac care unit at Presbyterian Hospital in Philadelphia, and award-winning American Red Cross volunteer died Saturday, May 13, of heart failure at Penn Presbyterian Medical Center.
Lufkin served in the Navy Nurse Corps from 1966 to 1992 and earned a dozen medals, stars, ribbons and citations, including the Meritorious Service Medal and the National Defense Service Medal. She was the charge nurse of an 18-bed intensive care unit on the hospital ship USS Repose and spent a year during 1968 and 1969 treating injured soldiers and marines off the coast of South Vietnam.
She had later assignments as charge nurse at Philadelphia Naval Hospital and patient care coordinator at Navy medical centers in Portsmouth, Va., and Charleston, S.C. She became director for nursing services at the Naval Hospital in Okinawa, Japan, in 1986 and held that position later at Navy hospitals in Jacksonville, Fla., and Charleston.
Her retirement from the Navy was marked by a ceremony on board the museum ship USS Yorktown at Patriots Point in Charleston harbor. “She was service-oriented and personable,” said her brother David. “She accomplished so much, and she was never boastful about it.”
Earlier at Presbyterian Hospital, now Penn Presbyterian Medical Center, Lufkin worked in the intensive care unit and became head nurse of a groundbreaking cardiac care unit in 1963.
A tireless volunteer after she left the Navy, Lufkin returned to her roots in Abington, north of Philadelphia, Pa., and served with the Southeastern Pennsylvania Region of the American Red Cross. She provided aid at more than 200 disaster sites in Montgomery County, served as the Red Cross liaison with the Eastern Montgomery County Emergency Management Group, and won the EMG’s 2017 Ed Momorella Eagle Award for “commitment to the emergency services community.”
She also won a 2008 Commemorative Award for service from the Philadelphia chapter of the Red Cross, and the International Committee of the Red Cross gave her a 2011 Florence Nightingale Medal for “exceptional courage and devotion to the wounded, sick or disabled or to civilian victims of a conflict or disaster.”
She was disappointed, she told family and colleagues, that controversy over the Vietnam War resulted in the work and sacrifices of veterans and others being insufficiently acknowledged. “She will be deeply missed,” her family said in a tribute.
Janice Mae Lufkin was born Dec. 18, 1941, in Philadelphia. She grew up in West Oak Lane, moved with her family to Abington when she was 12, and graduated from Abington Senior High School in 1959.
Her mother, Betty, was a registered nurse, and Lufkin earned a nursing diploma at Presbyterian Hospital School of Nursing in 1962. She joined the Navy Nurse Corps in 1966 as a lieutenant junior grade, earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Boston University School of Nursing in 1978, and was promoted to captain in 1986.
Lufkin supported Boston University, the Salvation Army, National Museum of the Surface Navy, National Museum of the U.S. Navy, and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
In 2011, she was one of 20 finalists for a Citizen Service-Before-Self Award from the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation. “I was absolutely astonished when I got the call,” she told The Inquirer in 2011.
It mattered not to her that she did not win. “I love what I’m doing,” Lufkin said. “I’m not doing it for any awards. I just like helping people in trouble.”
In addition to her brother, Lufkin is survived by other relatives.
A memorial service is to be at 11 a.m. Tuesday, June 20, at Abington Presbyterian Church, 1082 Old York Rd., Abington, Pa. 19001. A reception is to follow. Interment and military honors are to be later at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.
Donations in her name may be made to the American Red Cross Southeastern Pennsylvania Region, Philadelphia Chapter, 2221 Chestnut St., Philadelphia, Pa. 19103.
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