BULLHEAD CITY — When Katherine Hughart decided to return to hospital duty as an emergency room nurse at Western Arizona Regional Medical Center during a pandemic, her brothers Tom and John Gibbons tried to talk her out of it.
She was insistent.
“Tom, this is what I do,” she told one brother.
Hughart died July 12 from complications of COVID-19, the disease that brought her back into full-time nursing. She was 61 and, according to family, had no major underlying health issues. No information about how or when she contracted the disease was made available. Monday’s ceremony was devoted to “honoring a life of service and compassion,” according to WARMC CEO Michael Stenger.
Hughart was remembered fondly by family, friends and colleagues in a somber memorial service Monday morning in front of WARMC’s main entrance. The service included military honors by the Tri-State Veterans Honor Guard of VFW Post 10386 for the U.S. Air Force veteran and long-time flight nurse. Appropriately, the service ended with a scheduled fly-over by a CareFlight medical helicopter.
“We are appreciative of the time she spent with us,” said Emily Stevens, WARMC’s director of nursing, who presented a Daisy Award to Tom and John Gibbons, a posthumous honor for Hughart that is presented to extraordinary nurses.
John Gibbons said it was clear at an early age that Kathi was going to wind up as a health care professional. He said he remembered seeing his sister, then about 6 or 7, in the backyard stooped over, using a Popsicle stick in an attempt to treat an injured bird.
“Florence Nightingale reincarnated,” he said.
He said he was concerned earlier this year when Kathi told him she was returning to full-time nursing with an assignment in the emergency room at the Bullhead City hospital.
“I said, ‘This is a death sentence working in the E.R. with COVID patients,’ ” he said he told her. But, he noted, his sister had gone through three deployments in the Air Force, including one in Iraq, and was intent on returning to her passion of helping other people.
“Kathi died doing what she loved to do,” John Gibbons said. “Kathi was a caregiver from the heart.”
Tom Gibbons said there was one other thing Kathi loved to do, almost as much as being a nurse. That was fishing.
“I have a picture,” he said as he scrolled through images on his phone to find Kathi holding a 5 1/2-pound striper she caught last year at Lake Mohave during an outing when Tom was shut out.
“She was proud of that fish,” he said with a chuckle. “And she rubbed it in.”