Shorehaven independent living resident continues to support her fellow veterans.
Today Marylouise Felhofer’s preferred summertime regimen includes time spent lounging on her patio with a good book and participating in many of the activities offered at Shorehaven, as well as those in the local area. Although her routine is much more relaxed than in her past, Marylouise’s life is still ruled by order, efficiency, and stylish precision. These are traits that she crafted and honed through her service in the United States Navy.
Following the honorable footsteps of her father, a veteran of World War II, Marylouise enlisted in the Navy through a Nurse Corps scholarship program that covered the cost of her last two years of college. She aspired to be a Navy Nurse, but once the Navy became aware of the natural organizational and leadership skills that she possessed, they elevated her ambition to an even higher calling. Not only did her strong work ethic help her climb the ranks, but she also credits her ability to be flexible for her successful career. When asked to accept a variety of assignments ranging from direct patient care to education, administration, healthcare quality management, and service on the Navy Medical Inspector General’s team, she would confidently reply “yes, of course” and added, “you don’t turn down an opportunity from a commanding officer.” Her can-do spirit and willingness to be flexible led her to serve in several posts on military bases all over the world and ascend the officer ranks to the elite status of Navy Captain.
Throughout her career, Marylouise relished the opportunity to serve as an instructor and mentor to her Navy family. She became a recognized expert in healthcare quality management and the accreditation standards for healthcare organizations. Teaching was a natural talent that she possessed that earned her the respect of her students and an award for instructor excellence from the Navy. Having served both as a direct care nurse and an instructor, Marylouise was conflicted about which vocation she preferred. “I liked them both. As a nurse, I endeavored to provide the best care possible to service members and their families. As a teacher, I groomed both new officers on their responsibilities and new Hospital Corpsmen on the care they would be providing to the Marine Corps in the field.”
She still keeps in touch with some of her students and many of her Navy colleagues. She has had a few students seek her out to thank her for making a lasting impact in their careers.
Marylouise also met her husband in the Navy. He had a successful career as a psychiatric nurse. United in marriage and by a call to serve, they traveled to naval bases around the world and were selected by the Navy to attend graduate school at the same time.
The Navy helped Marylouise hone her strengths of both a good work ethic and organization, and it also helped her to develop an area that wasn’t a natural strength. “The Navy taught me to be more assertive and speak my mind. Now I probably speak too much,” she said with a laugh. Marylouise’s confidence helped her thrive in a non-discriminatory environment. “I never experienced gender inequity in the Navy. You were valued by your rank, not your gender. Unlike the outside world, I never received a lesser salary because of my gender.”
Through all her different roles and ranks in the military, she could always count on her dad to be her biggest fan. Over the years, she would send him many of her awards so he could display them proudly and boast to the neighbors. On her return trips home, her dad requested that she dress in uniform to attend church so that he could show off his daughter’s achievements. Although he was unable to travel to the ceremony and reception in Washington D.C. where she was promoted to Captain, he swelled with pride at the remarkable accomplishment of his daughter and fellow Navy veteran.
After Marylouise retired from the Navy in 2001, she worked for the Clement J. Zablocki VA Medical Center in the Office of Quality Management and Safety. In addition to working with both veterans and staff, she led the Medical Center preparations for multiple accreditation surveys. Returning to her birthplace of Milwaukee and continuing her life’s passion of caring for fellow veterans was a natural transition. At the VA, she was able to utilize the assets she acquired in the Navy, including the skills of discipline, maturity, and the value of teamwork.
As a Navy veteran, she established easy rapport and trust with the veterans she served. The stories she heard confirmed her belief that war conditions had changed. Due to better safety precautions and equipment such as body armor, veterans had a higher survival rate. They experienced multiple deployments, which she believed factored into the mental health issues experienced by many veterans today. “I heard lots of stories. They would tell me things that they wouldn’t tell their own families. I would listen, tell them I appreciate them, that everything they endured was worth it, and that they should be proud of their service to our country.”
While working for the VA, she lost her husband in 2010. Marylouise retired from the VA in 2018.
Marylouise continues to honor her commitment to serve veterans. The team she worked with at the VA periodically serves meals at the Fisher House where veterans’ families stay, while the veterans themselves receive extended medical treatment.