Benigna Chavez Hausam, age 86, of Sedalia, died peacefully on Friday morning, September 21, 2018 at James River Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Springfield, Missouri following a short stay there in hospice after suffering a stroke, probably on August 30. She was surrounded by her loving children Wiley, Richard and Karen and their families.
Mrs. Hausam was an exemplary, well-known and admired nurse at Bothwell Hospital from 1963 until her retirement in 2001. She was born on October 31, 1931 in a poor village high in the Andes Mountains in Llallagua, Potosi, Bolivia, South America, and named Benigna Chavez Barrios, the second child of Benigno Chavez Claros, a foreman in the Patino tin mines there, and his wife Ascencia Barrios Crespo, who was an indigenous South American and whose native language was Quechua.
At about the age of 16, Benigna’s appendix was removed in an emergency surgery at an American Methodist-run hospital near La Paz, Bolivia, where the family had moved. Soon after, she converted to the Methodist Church and developed a strong interest in nursing as a career. In November 1952, she graduated from the Clinica Americana in Obrajes, Bolivia, a nursing school and hospital supported by the American Methodist Church and run by two remarkable American missionaries, Dr. Frank Beck and his wife, Bessie Beck. Benigna became a staff nurse there. She then worked as a nurse for two years at the Sweet Institute in Santiago, Chile. She returned to the Clinica Americana to become head nurse there.
Recognizing Benigna’s potential and ambition, Mrs. Beck offered to secure a nursing position for her at a small hospital in Rock Rapids, Iowa. Benigna expressed enthusiasm at the prospect, accepted the offer, journeyed alone to America by plane, and began working in Iowa in August 1955. Her father, a foreman for a Bolivian railroad as well as the company soccer coach, had encouraged her to take advantage of this opportunity, and it changed her life completely.
While in Iowa, in the summer of 1956 she met a traveling salesman named Harold Hausam from Sedalia, Missouri who was 15 years her senior. They fell in love quickly, were married on January 25, 1957, and remained married for 48 years until Harold’s death in July 2005 at the age of 89. (Harold died of complications from a stroke and Benigna nursed him at home during the last six months of his life with the assistance of two aides as well as hospice visits.)
At the beginning of Harold and Benigna’s marriage they lived in Boulder, Colorado, Tucumcari, New Mexico, and El Paso, Texas (Benigna worked as a nurse in all three locations). The Hausam’s and their three young children, Wiley, Richard and Karen moved to Sedalia in September 1963. Benigna began working at Bothwell Hospital as a staff nurse. The family joined Wesley United Methodist Church and Mrs. Hausam was an active member of the congregation there until July 2010.
Following her graduation from nursing school at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City in 1972, and after many years of excellent service at Bothwell Hospital, in 1982 Benigna was promoted to Nurse Supervisor #6 (on the 3 – 11 p.m. shift) and remained in the position for 15 years until her retirement from full-time nursing in December 1997. Mrs. Hausam held the nurses who reported to her to a high standard and encouraged her patients to a swift recovery. She continued to work part-time until July 2001. Altogether, she worked as a nurse for almost fifty years.
Mrs. Hausam loved to travel. With her husband, she traveled throughout the western United States and to Mexico. With the Third National Bank travel group, she saw the rest of the world, visiting Hawaii, Alaska and such countries as England, Scotland, Ireland, Italy (Rome, Florence, and Venice), Spain, France (the Riviera), Switzerland, Greece, Canada, Costa Rica, Panama, Argentina, Chile, Peru, Colombia, Australia and New Zealand.
She volunteered for a number of years for the local chapter of the American Red Cross.
Mrs. Hausam exemplified the American Dream. As an emigrant to the United States from Bolivia, she became a naturalized United States citizen in August 1962 in El Paso, Texas, succeeded in her profession, purchased her own home at 906 Royal Blvd. and saved money for a secure retirement. She was a strong, independent woman with energy, initiative, optimism and determination who provided a secure home for her three children. Mrs. Hausam was extremely grateful for the opportunity to move to the United States and make her life here, and often expressed this to the end of her life: “This is the greatest country in the world.” Although she stayed in touch with her family in Bolivia throughout the years, and returned to visit them four times, she never considered moving back to Bolivia.
Because of complications from a major back surgery in July 2010 and increasing dementia, she resided at Sylvia Thompson Residence Center from January 2011 – August 31, 2018, when she was hospitalized briefly in Kansas City. Her acceptance of and adjustment to the loss of her memory was elegant and gentle. She was not afraid to meet death.
Survivors include two sons, Wiley Hausam and his husband Douglas Alves de Oliveira of New York City and Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Richard Hausam and his wife Agnes of Ozark, Missouri and daughter, Karen Shelby of Sedalia, as well as four grandchildren, Christopher Shelby, Sarah Finch, Macey Hausam and Seth Hausam. She is also survived by her sisters Lidia, Graciela and Cleta and her brother Mario, all of whom live in Bolivia. She was preceded in death by her older sister Leonilda, her parents and her husband Harold.
The family will welcome friends at the Heckart Funeral Home on Wednesday, the 26th from 7 – 8:30 p.m. The service will also be at Heckart Funeral Home on Thursday, the 27th at 10 a.m. with the Reverend Dennis Harper of Wesley United Methodist Church officiating. Burial will be in Memorial Park Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests contributions to the Bothwell Regional Health Center Foundation or UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on Relief).