Edith Roberts McCarren, 88, of Abington, a mother and retired nurse, died Monday, May 14, of multiple organ failure at Abington Hospital–Jefferson Health, where she had worked part time for 26 years.
Mrs. McCarren was a caregiver. In 1953, she married Charles E. McCarren Jr., a decorated Marine Corps veteran of the Korean War. They had seven children. While raising her large brood, she volunteered to teach first aid and canoeing from a Red Cross office in Jenkintown.
Once her children were grown, Mrs. McCarren earned her licensed practical nursing degree from Montgomery County Technical School in Upper Moreland. In 1981, at age 52, she earned her registered nursing degree from Montgomery County Community College.
In 1979, she began doing relief work – filling in on weekends — throughout Abington Hospital's various departments. She continued in that role, but worked chiefly in the inpatient psychiatric unit, before retiring in 2005.
Maryann Pagano, a nurse who had worked with Mrs. McCarren since 1981, described her as a gregarious person who found humor in life.
"She found joy in nursing and passed it along to two of her daughters, Martha and Rebecca. You could really tell she loved being a nurse. She would always go the extra mile to make sure her patients' needs were met. She was patient-centered before it was popular."
On weekdays, Mrs. McCarren was a fill-in school nurse in the Philadelphia School District. She kept it up from the early 1990s until 2012, when she reluctantly stopped working at age 82.
Born in Hoboken, N.J., to Dr. Edgar and Ida Roberts, Mrs. McCarren was raised in West New York and Washington, both in New Jersey. She graduated from Washington High School in 1947 and Juniata College in 1951 with a bachelor's degree in history.
During the Korean War, Mrs. McCarren, then in her early 20s, worked for the Navy's communications department as a cryptologic officer, one who codes and decodes important messages. She was not permitted to talk about the work. She enjoyed being in Washington, where she was stationed.
Mrs. McCarren and husband Charles divorced in 1980. He died in 1994. She married Walter O. Ford in 1988. He died in 2012.
Whatever project Mrs. McCarren took on, she committed to for the long haul. A 59-year resident of Abington Township, she was a longtime volunteer with the Newcomers Group, an organization that welcomes residents to the township.
For 54 years, she belonged to the Abington Presbyterian Church, where she taught Sunday School and Youth Fellowship groups.
Mrs. McCarren opened her home to friends and strangers who needed a place to stay. She was known for her homemade bread, which she served toasted with butter.
"Many neighbors and friends eagerly awaited their own loaf each Christmas morning," her daughter Martha said.
An avid patron of the arts, Mrs. McCarren attended the opera, the Philadelphia Orchestra, and the theater. She followed current events and liked to read history.
She was a staunch believer in fitness and swam no fewer than three times a week at the Abington YMCA pool. She rode a tandem bike with her second husband along the Schuylkill River Trail and on the boardwalk in Ocean City, N.J.
In addition to her daughter Martha, she is survived by children Florence Corbin, David R., Ruth Ianozi, Rebecca M., Peter R., and Samuel R.; stepchildren Carolyn, Henry, and Walter Ford.; 16 grandchildren; six great-grandchildren; nieces and nephews; and her companion, William Broadhag.
A celebration of life will be at 2 p.m. Sunday, May 20, at Abington Art Center, 515 Meetinghouse Rd., Jenkintown. Interment is private.