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Eva M. Noles, former director of nursing at Roswell Park Cancer Institute

April 5, 1919 – Dec. 2, 2015

Eva M. Noles, former director of nursing at Roswell Park Cancer Institute and the first African-American woman to train and graduate as a registered nurse in Buffalo, died Dec. 2 in her Williamsville home after a long illness. She was 96.

Born Eva Malinda Bateman in Cleveland, she came to Buffalo with her family in 1928 and was a graduate of Hutchinson Central High School. On a dare from a friend, she applied to the School of Nursing at Buffalo City Hospital (later E. J. Meyer Memorial Hospital and now Erie County Medical Center), where blacks had not been admitted.

To her surprise, she was accepted. She graduated at the top of her class despite discrimination – student housing was segregated, so she had to room by herself, and, when she went to attend the senior dinner, she and her date were not admitted.

Later in her career, she earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing from the University at Buffalo in 1962 and a master’s degree in education from UB in 1967.

After working at Meyer, Sisters and Columbus hospitals, she became the first black staff nurse at Roswell Park in 1945 and advanced to become director of nursing in 1971, the first black nursing chief in a state facility. She retired in 1974. Roswell Park established a scholarship in her name.

Mrs. Noles founded New York State Nurses Week in 1970, which is celebrated annually from in May. She also was a board member for Buffalo General Hospital, the Health Organization of Western New York, the Greater Buffalo Chapter of the American Red Cross and the Community Mental Health Center of Buffalo, where she chaired the board. She also was a member of the Zonta Club of Buffalo.

For many years, she also worked with the Negro Registered Nurses Club to provide scholarships and other financial assistance for young black women to study nursing.

In retirement, she worked with a federal program that trained nurse practitioners. From 1977 to 1984, she was a home care supervisor for Medical Personnel Pool, later becoming a staff developer.

She also became an author and historian. Her publications included “Six Decades of Nursing at Roswell Park, 1914-1974,” “Buffalo’s Blacks: Talking Proud,” “Black History: A Different Approach” and “The Church Builder: The Life of Bishop Charles H. McCoy, Church of God in Christ.” Her papers are archived at UB.

She received many honors, including the Uncrowned Queens Institute’s Culture Keepers award for outstanding contributions to African-American culture in Western New York, which she received in 2002.

She enjoyed traveling for her nursing career, reading, needlepoint, pencil drawing and tending her rose garden.

Her husband, Douglas, who died in 2001, was a professional photographer.

Survivors include a son, Tyrone M.; three grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

A memorial Mass will be offered at 10:30 a.m. next Tuesday in St. Gregory the Great Catholic Church, 200 St. Gregory Court, Amherst.

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