Martha E. Keochareon's story caught national attention after The New York Times published a front page article chronicling the visits of two Holyoke Community College nursing students to her bedside as she lay dying of pancreatic cancer. But Martha began giving back to community any way she could years earlier. To continue her legacy, her family has created The Martha E. Keochareon Nursing Scholarship through the HCC Foundation.
Martha graduated from Holyoke High School in 1971 and began working immediately. She spent about a dozen years on the factory floor of James River in Holyoke before deciding to follow her lifelong dream of becoming a nurse. She enrolled in the nursing program at HCC and worked tirelessly to achieve excellent grades and to ensure that she was developing the skills needed to become a comforting, attentive, vigilant advocate for patients. She truly loved learning, nursing and people. She graduated with an RN degree from HCC in 1993.
"From a very young age, I saw my mother helping all kinds of people," said Barbara Connor Dimauro, Martha's daughter. "She would invite neighborhood children who had nothing to come for dinner or to the beach, and she donated whatever we had but didn't need. She gave money to charity on a regular basis even though we didn't have a lot."
About a week after her mother's death, Barbara, and her husband Andrew, began thinking about how she could help her mother continue to help others, and the idea for The Martha E. Keochareon Nursing Scholarship was born.
Martha's final weeks were chronicled by The New York Times after Martha invited two HCC nursing students into her home to learn about cancer, pain management and the dying process first-hand. Martha passed away on December 29, 2012, after a seven-year battle with pancreatic cancer. She spent her final days giving back to her alma mater and her community.
The scholarship will be awarded to a student of HCC's RN program with a GPA of 3.0 or higher who has completed the first year of the program. Preference will be given to nontraditional students, Holyoke residents and/or students who have volunteered with Baystate Hospice.
To donate securely online, click here: Give Now. Where it says "Fund," choose "Martha Koechareon Scholarship."
Photos: (left) Martha Keochareon, during a short stay at Baystate Medical Center in December. (Right) HCCnNursing students Michelle Elliot, left, and Cindy Santiago visit with Martha Keochareon at Baystate Medical Center.