Vivian Middleman, 84, nurse

Vivian Middleman
Vivian Middleman
Posted: March 02, 2013

Vivian Middleman, 84, of Haverford, a retired professor and assistant dean at Widener University who as a young nurse rode on horseback to treat patients in rural Kentucky, died Sunday, Feb. 24, of pneumonia at Bryn Mawr Hospital.

Mrs. Middleman devoted her life to nursing. One of her first jobs was with the Frontier Nursing Service, which provided nurses to remote areas.

"She went down to Hyden, Ky., in the early 1950s," said her brother, Richard Hastings. "She worked as a nurse missionary. She traveled by horseback through the mountains, making house calls."

Her husband, Donald, said she was very proud of the work she did in Kentucky.

"She had very primitive living conditions down there," he said. "She slept with a coal stove. She would ride the trails. Sometimes she would use horses, sometimes she would use Jeeps."

She and her husband lived for several years at the Quadrangle in Haverford. They lived for many years in the Overbrook Farms section of West Philadelphia.

Vivian Hastings was born May 31, 1928, in Atglen, daughter of Clyde and Ruth Hastings.

She graduated from Scott High School in Coatesville in 1946 and earned a bachelor's degree in nursing from the University of Pennsylvania in 1950.

She then worked as a nurse at Presbyterian Medical Center in West Philadelphia for several years.

Mrs. Middleman earned a master's degree in nursing from Boston University in 1968. That year, she went to work at Widener, where she taught nursing.

In 1972, she married Donald Middleman, whom she had met through a mutual friend in a reading group.

Mrs. Middleman was later named assistant dean of the nursing school. In the mid-1980s, she served as interim dean, said a longtime friend, Peggy Miller, a retired nursing professor at Widener.

"She was a very good nurse," Miller said. "She was very compassionate and a very caring friend.

"All of us who were friends of hers just loved her for her thoughtfulness to us, the patients, and the students as well."

Mrs. Middleman retired in the early 1990s.

She was a longtime member of the First Presbyterian Church in Germantown, where she was a deacon.

Donald Middleman said his wife was a gentle person who "drew people to her magnetically." He said she loved classical music and played piano in her younger years.

"Her passions were nursing and teaching," he said. "She still gets Christmas cards from students she taught 40 years ago."

In addition to her husband and brother, Mrs. Middleman is survived by stepsons Karl and Philip Middleman, and several nieces and nephews.

A memorial service is scheduled for 2 p.m. Sunday, March 3, at the First Presbyterian Church in Germantown, 35 W. Chelten Ave.

Contact Vernon Clark at 215-854-5717 or

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