Jessie L. Browder worked in a number of departments at South Florida Baptist Hospital during a nursing career that spanned three decades.
But she had a clear favorite: the maternity ward.
"She was a very good nurse, and she loved babies. She rocked a lot of babies to sleep," said her granddaughter, Yolanda Gaines-Crawford, who followed Browder into nursing.
Browder died Dec. 3 at a local retirement home after several years of declining health.
She was born Feb. 13, 1920, to Sylvester and Lugenia Williams in Miccosukee, a small community near Tallahassee. She married Mack when she was 15 and he was 30, and they moved to Plant City in the late-1930s.
Browder received her degree as a licensed practical nurse in 1951 from Beaumont School in Tampa. She was one of the first black nurses hired as South Florida Baptist opened its doors in December 1953.
The hospital was segregated in those days, and black patients were treated in what was known as the Carver Wing. She was paid 54 cents an hour and was proud of her job.
Browder loved caring for others as a nurse, Gaines-Crawford said. She continued to work occasionally at the hospital even after she retired in 1981.
Gaines-Crawford said her grandmother was such an inspiration that she obtained her own nursing degree from the University of Florida more than 30 years ago. For the last 20 years, Gaines-Crawford has been a nurse-midwife, delivering babies.
"She was a role model to everyone who ever met her," Gaines-Crawford said. "She accomplished so much in her life.
"I always thought of her as a pillar of the community."
Judy Plouffe, a registered nurse who recently retired after 38 years at South Florida Baptist, said Browder was known for her dedication and compassion. Browder was skilled and well-versed in every department, and the hospital would often reach out to her to work as a sitter for patients in need of constant care.
"Whenever I called her, she would always come in, even when she was in her 80s," Plouffe said. "She liked working with the patients, and they all liked her."
Browder loved her church, Allen Chapel AME, and loved her family and cooking for them.
"She was like the best cook in the world. She made great fried chicken, but her biscuits were my favorite," said Gaines-Crawford's husband, Lonnie.
Browder suffered from dementia in recent years, but Thanksgiving was memorable because of her family's final conversation with her, Lonnie Crawford said.
"We knew her time was getting short, and I told her I loved her. She opened her eyes, smiled and said, 'I love you too.' She loved her family, and I think God let us tell each other how much we loved one another one last time."
Survivors include her sister, Beatrice Bryant of Tallahassee; three grandchildren; and several nieces and nephews.