Verna Adwell Rhodes, 92, passed from this life April 16, 2022, at Lenoir Woods in Columbia, Missouri. Born Jan. 3, 1930, at her grandfather’s farm home near Ravenwood, Missouri, she lived most of her life in Columbia. Verna was preceded in death by her parents, Earl B. Adwell and Edna (Slagle) Adwell, an infant brother, Earl Laverne Adwell, and her sister, Connie Madden.
Reared on a farm during the Great Depression, early childhood experiences influenced Verna’s lifelong interest in both health care and other countries, especially Sweden, where she later traveled professionally. She completed both elementary and secondary education at Ravenwood Consolidated School, and in 1950, she graduated from St. Luke’s Hospital School of Nursing in Kansas City, Missouri, as a Stoddard Scholar. She married her high school sweetheart, V. James Rhodes, on Sept. 17, 1950, then moved to Columbia, where she began working at the University of Missouri’s Noyes Hospital and started coursework on a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing (BSN). From 1951 to 1953, while practicing in Boston VA Hospitals, she continued coursework in the Harvard Extension Program. Returning to the University of Missouri, she completed her BSN in 1954 while practicing as a school nurse at the University Laboratory School and the preschool in the then Department of Home Economics. During this time, she planned and presented several television programs for “Today’s Health” at the new KOMU University of Missouri TV station. Verna went on to complete two graduate degrees from the University of Missouri in 1957 and 1980.
In 1955, Verna joined the faculty of the MU (now Sinclair) School of Nursing and developed the first 4-year undergraduate nursing integrated curriculum for the first generic BSN students who remained on campus for their theory and clinical. Verna and these students helped move patients from the Noyes Hospital to the new University Medical Center on Sept. 16, 1956. Verna’s teaching; work with oncologic, medical, and surgical patients; and extended nursing research at MU across two time periods, from 1954 to 1960 and 1974 to 2000. The interruption allowed her to accompany her husband and newborn daughter to Washington, DC, for her husband’s sabbatical leave. Upon returning to Columbia, Verna practiced in Boone County Hospital’s first intensive care unit. During her professional career, Verna became widely known professionally for developing several instruments to measure patients’ symptoms. She authored numerous scholarly publications in professional journals and textbooks. Her love for clinical practice, teaching, and research continued part-time until 2005. Although she and her husband traveled to many countries to give international presentations, her interests and travels continued well after retirement.
Verna was a member of the American Nurses Association, the Missouri Nurses Association, the Oncology Nurses Association (ONS), the Sigma Theta Tau International Honorary Association, Midwest Nursing Research Society, and the International Orem Society. She was elected a fellow in the American Academy of Nursing. Verna was a founding member and second president of the Central Missouri Chapter of ONS. The Central Missouri Chapter of ONS has established two undergraduate nursing scholarships in her name (one at the Sinclair School of Nursing) for the study of oncology. She served as the professional leader for People to People Citizen’s Ambassador Programs to China, Russia, and Poland. She has been active in ACTS (A Call To Serve), and in
1995 Verna was a member of the first medical team to go to the then Republic of Georgia. From 2006 to 2007, Verna served as president of the MU Fortnightly Club and organized the first ever Fortnightly Scholarship Gala. She was a member of the HK Chapter of PEO and a longtime board member of the Cancer Research Center. Verna was honored to receive the Chancellor’s Faculty Retiree of the Year award in 2006 and to be awarded in 2011 the Distinguished Friend of the Sinclair School of Nursing. At the school, an endowed Verna Adwell Rhodes Chair of Nursing was recently established in her name. In 2015, she was selected to receive the Barbara Kleist Award that was established in 2013 for graduates of St. Luke’s Health Science College who have made outstanding achievement in the nursing profession.
Family, church, and community have been integral parts of Jim and Verna’s lives. While living in the Boston area, they were youth leaders in the historic Tremont Temple Baptist Church in downtown Boston. After being members of Calvary Baptist Church in the 1950s and early 1960s, Jim and Verna became active members of First Baptist Church (FBC) in Columbia. They enjoyed Christian education, deacon, missionary activities and other responsibilities. Verna became a life member of the FBC Pre-School Child Development Board. In the 1960s, she served on the Board of the Nora Stewart Nursery School.
Jim and Verna were devoted to their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.
In addition to her husband, Verna is survived by their three children, Robin Motta [Dino] of Paola, Kansas; Marshall Rhodes [Vicki] of Clermont, Florida; and Sarabeth Rhodes of Columbia; and three grandchildren, Joshua Motta [Gwyneth] of San Francisco, California; Mallory Motta Roberts [Steven] of Prosper, Texas; and Jacob Motta of Columbia. She also has two step-grandchildren, Jason Gubbins [Erin] of Columbia, and Dr. Nichole Davis [Chad] of Houston, Texas; four great-grandchildren; five step-great-grandchildren; a nephew; several nieces; cousins; and many friends. Honorary members are family Drs. Tahira and Labh Hira of Bonita Springs, Florida (formerly of Ames, Iowa).
A memorial celebration of Verna’s life will be held at the First Baptist Church in Columbia, Missouri, at 1 pm, Saturday, May 7, with a reception following in the Fellowship Hall.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Verna Adwell Rhodes Endowed Chair in Nursing at the University of Missouri Sinclair School of Nursing.
Posted online on April 21, 2022
Published in the Columbia Daily Tribune
First Baptist Church in Columbia, Missouri with a reception following in the Fellowship Hall.
May 07, 2022 at 1:00 PM