Twenty-Five Years Later, Dana-Farber Research Nurse Remembers Patient Room Proposal

There are good reasons as to why research nurse Stephanie Morrissey, RN, BSN, refers to Dana-Farber Cancer Institute as a “place that feels like home.” Two of her most significant life events took place across the street from where she now works in Dana-Farber’s Yawkey Center for Cancer Care.

The first was in 1993 when Morrissey, three years into her Dana-Farber career, was caring for patients. Her fellow nurse Mary Delaney, RN, BSN, mentioned she had a brother that Morrissey might like to meet.

“Sure,” said Morrissey. “Here’s my number.”

One thing led to another, and Delaney’s brother, Tom, called Morrissey for a date.

“I had just finished a seven-to-seven shift,” recalls Morrissey. “He took me to Doyle’s Cafe in Jamaica Plain [in Boston], and we laughed all night. It felt effortless, and five months later we were engaged.”

Tom knew Morrissey was close with her coworkers, so he asked them for help. Kerry Beliveau, RN, BSN, helped choose a ring—and Delaney and Christine Lillenfeld, RN, BSN, aided in devising a special proposal. On the night of May 21, 1993, Morrissey was called to a young patient’s room. When she arrived, Tom was waiting along with the co-conspirators and smiling patient. As a medical fellow videotaped, Tom got down on one knee and proposed.

Morrissey and her husband, Tom, reenact the proposal 25 years later.
Morrissey and her husband, Tom, reenact the proposal 25 years later.
The 1993 proposal.
The 1993 proposal.

“The room is still there,” Morrissey says with a laugh. “It’s been turned into an office, and I’ve always wanted to tell the person in it about its history.”

Beliveau and Lillenfeld are also still here, as is Delaney—now Morrissey’s sister-in-law and godmother of her middle daughter, Erin. Delaney even framed the note on which Morrissey wrote down her phone number for her to give to Tom, and the note greeted guests at the couple’s 1994 wedding. Beliveau, Delaney, and Lillenfeld were her bridesmaids.

Raised with a strong sense of the important role Dana-Farber plays in their family, Stephanie and Tom’s children are forming their own bonds with the cancer center. Just out of college, Mary Kate works at Dana-Farber as a senior development assistant for Development and the Jimmy Fund. Middle daughter Erin is a nursing student at Boston College who spent this summer working as a clinic assistant, helping with patient check-ins and infusions.

Erin Morrissey, Mary Delaney, RN, BSN, Stephanie Morrissey, RN, OCN, Thomas Morrissey, and Mary Kate Morrissey
Erin Morrissey, Mary Delaney, RN, BSN, Stephanie Morrissey, RN, OCN, Thomas Morrissey, and Mary Kate Morrissey

Kelly, the youngest daughter, is a high school senior who volunteers at Dana-Farber and is also planning to go to nursing school. Son Patrick, 15, is involved with community service at our church, just as all of the kids have been, and Morrissey “anticipates he will follow along the same road that leads to Dana-Farber by volunteering alongside his sisters.”

As for Tom? An accountant by training, he is now president and CEO of Boston Orthotics & Prosthetics, a company that makes prosthetic limbs and other orthopedic devices for children— including many pediatric patients from Dana-Farber.

“It’s pretty cool when you think about it,” says Delaney. “A wonderful family story, and it all started with that first conversation between me and Stephanie.

“I’m glad we had it!”

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