From a young age, Jean York had a compassionate heart and a yearning to help others. The youngest of three girls, she spent a great deal of time traveling with her father, Clarence Mould, a veterinarian. “Depending on where the call was, my father would take me with him. I thought it would be nice to do something like that someday,” Jean explains. Her interest in medicine and providing care to others led her to apply to nursing school.
In 1943, Jean entered the U.S. Cadet Nursing Corps at Middletown State where she studied psychiatrics followed by medical, surgical, and obstetrics training at Fordham Hospital in New York City. Upon graduating, Jean was sent to Rhodes General Hospital in Utica to care for wounded service members. At just 21 years of age, Jean became well aware of the need for nurses. “The patients from the Japanese prison camps were some of the worst cases,” Jean recalls. “They had to be pretty banged up to be at Rhodes.”
During her service years Jean began asking patients for their patches, which depicted various military divisions ranging from Air Force and Airborne to Alaskan and Persian. “There were patients that didn’t offer me a patch, but I got one anyway,” laughs Jean. “I thought it would be nice to have a collection.” In total, Jean collected some 70 different patches, all of which had their own personal story. When the war ended in 1945, Jean was an officer candidate.
Jean married her high school sweetheart, Donald York, who served in the U. S. Navy Lighter-Than-Air operation in 1946. In the years to come, Jean and Donald welcomed three children: Douglas, Roger, and Barbara. The family moved around the country quite a bit due to Donald’s job as a salesman for a number of different breweries. An opening at Genesee Brewery in 1960 led the York family to make their final move to Rochester, NY. Jean returned to work after her oldest son enrolled in college. “I worked at Highland and St. Mary’s in the neonatal intensive care unit for 25 years,” states Jean.
Now 94 years-old, Jean resides at St. John’s Home where she is an active member of the Green Thumb Society. She attributes her longevity to clean living. “I never cared to smoke or drink,” Jean says. That is not to say she was not involved with her share of fun and mischief. In fact, during her time in the service, Jean and a friend stuffed their bunks with pillows and snuck out of the army base to go dancing. Her daughter, Barbara, explains how they took the train from Utica to New York City and were back before morning. “We were tired the next day, but we didn’t get caught,” Jean says. “We just decided we wanted to kick up our heels for the night.”