Ola B. Lofton, 95, of West Mount Airy, an Army nurse who rose to the rank of captain and later became a pediatric nurse in Philadelphia, died Sunday, Jan. 6, at her home of complications from Parkinson’s disease.
Born in Durham, N.C., Mrs. Lofton graduated from Hillside School there. At a time when it was difficult for Southern women of color to pursue higher education, she was determined to go to college, which she viewed as the key to advancement. She chose North Carolina College at Durham, a historically black university. The school is now North Carolina Central University.
In 1950, she blazed a trail as a member of the school’s first graduating class to receive a bachelor of science in public health nursing.
She enlisted in the Army in January 1951 during the Korean War and was promoted to captain in 1953, as the war was ending. According to her military record, she served as an Army health service nurse in Korea and Japan. She was honored with the Army of Occupation Medal (Japan), Korean Service Medal, U.N. Service Medal, and National Defense Service Medal.
She married Jesse L. Lofton in 1954. When she became pregnant with the first of their two sons, she had to leave military service to conform with Army rules. She was honorably discharged in June 1956.
For the next 25 years, Mrs. Lofton worked as a pediatric nurse in Philadelphia. She was employed at various times by Thomas Jefferson University Hospital and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Her longest stretch of employment was spent caring for pediatric patients at a Children’s Hospital health clinic at 1427 Catharine St. The clinic later became Rebound Medical Group. Mrs. Lofton stayed until the building was sold.
In 1988, at age 65, Mrs. Lofton returned to school and earned a master’s degree in administration from the University of Pennsylvania.
“She planned on continuing to work right after that,” said son Andrew L. Lofton. “But during the 1990s, my father took ill, so she didn’t go back to work because she was taking care of him.” A retired Army major and a church organist and deacon, Jesse Lofton died in 1995 at age 68.
Mrs. Lofton was an active member of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Germantown, and was involved in St. Luke’s Recreational Ministry, St. Cecilia’s Choir, St. Luke’s Youth Organization, and the Vacation Bible School.
“Ola could often be found helping out in the kitchen and serving up her mouth-watering strawberry shortcake and cornbread, which earned her the nickname ‘the cornbread lady,’ ” her family said.
After news of her death, Mrs. Lofton’s fellow church members posted online. “I will miss her kindness and humor,” wrote choir member Corbin Abernathy. “Good-bye, Miss Ola.”
Mrs. Lofton’s niece, Montressa Barbee-Watkins, also posted: “She made me a lot of who I am. She drilled me until I could say February correctly. She wouldn’t let me get away with any grammatical mistakes. I love her for that. The most loving thing my dad could ever say to me was, ‘You’re just like your Aunt Ola.’ ”
Mrs. Lofton was a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority and North Carolina Central University Alumni.
She enjoyed entertaining and traveling to Egypt and Alaska. Since 1996, she had lived with son Andrew. She was very close to Andrew’s wife, Michelle, and daughter-in-law Victoria Lofton.
In addition to her son and niece, she is survived by another son, Arthur G.; three grandchildren; and nieces and nephews.
A sorority ceremony at 9:30 a.m. Friday, Jan. 25, will be followed by a 10 a.m. memorial service at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, Germantown, 5421 Germantown Ave. Burial is private.