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Florence "Ma" Bell

Guardian Angel - Best Known for delivering more than 100 babies during 32 years in the tiny Southeast town of Kake, Florence "Ma" Bell, 97, died Oct. 9, 1994 in Gardiner, Maine, her birthplace.

In her early years, Bell worked as a nurse and nursing instructor in hospitals and schools on the East Coast and in the South.

After her first husband died, Bell joined the U.S. Public Health Service which sent her to Alaska on the U.S.S. Hygiene. She soon settled in Kake, where she met and married Raymond Bell, proprietor of the town's only store.

Bell helped her husband run the store. "She had a candy section that was the best around," said Ronelle Beardslee, now of Petersburg, "but she would close it during lunch, from 12 to 1, because she was worried about the health of the kids."

Beardslee said Bell, who wasn't intimidated by anyone, was considered the community's matriarch. "We called her Ma Ball," said Kake Mayor Lonnie Anderson, who lived next door to the Bells. With no doctor in Kake and no roads to other towns, Bell's role as nurse and midwife was critical to the community. "She saved people's lives, you bet she did," said Lois Berkeley of Kake.

When Ray Bell died in 1978, Florence Bell retired to Petersburg.

In 1990 the Kake Fire Department escorted her back to Kake for a reception in her honor, where most of the 110 people she had delivered each presented her with a rose. "She could recall every one of them by name," said Marvin Kadake, a family friend.

In 1991, the Alaska Legislature presented her with a citation for humanitarianism, for years of donating food, boat travel and even power from the Bells' own generator when the community was in need. The citation lauded her for watching over Kake "like an angel."

Source: Petersburg Pilot  




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