Obituary: Joanne Grimes / Nurse who had a passion for helping critters get well

Aug. 30 1954 - Aug. 16 2013

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Sometimes it was a squirrel or opossum, but when Joanne Grimes of Monroeville had an injured animal in her care, it was usually a rabbit.

Sometimes, she had 25 of them.

That's how she got the nickname "bunny-momma" and earned a reputation for compassion that extended beyond the hospital bedside.

A nurse at Forbes Regional Hospital in Monroeville for 20 years, Ms. Grimes also spent a lot of time helping the animal kingdom through volunteer positions at the Animal Rescue League Wildlife Center in Verona and was a devoted Nittany Lion.

"She was able to channel her medical knowledge -- especially her experience as a surgical nurse -- to her work with animals," said Susan Caldwell, a longtime friend and co-worker of Ms. Grimes.

"She would actually come into work, when we used to work in the [operating room], and she would say that she had baby bunnies overnight and she would wake up to feed them," said Ms. Caldwell, of Plum.

"It would get to be a few weeks later and she would say, 'It's release day, we get to release them into the wild.' "

Her husband, Galen Grimes, estimated that she took care of around 250 bunnies in their home before she died Friday of endometrial cancer. She was 58.

"Most of the animals that came in there came in because of an unfortunate encounter with humans," Mr. Grimes said. "And she just felt a sense of compassion because most of them got there through no fault of their own."

Born and raised in Pittsburgh, Ms. Grimes met her husband at Zelda's Greenhouse, a bar that used to be nestled in Central Oakland.

"At the time, I was a news reporter at Channel 4. I had a little bit of notoriety," Mr. Grimes said. "She recognized me from TV. She was not by any means awestruck -- in fact, just the opposite," adding that he pursued her until his charm and persistence grew on her.

She earned her bachelor's degree in nursing in 1976 and a master's of health education in 1997, both from Penn State University.

"I like to joke that if you look in the dictionary and look up 'bleed blue and white' you'll see her face there," Mr. Grimes said. "She got me hooked going to Penn State football games," and they had season tickets for about 25 years.

In 2001 she began volunteering at the wildlife center and almost immediately began taking more responsibility for fundraising, caring for injured animals and attracting volunteers.

"She was really part of us growing into a successful organization," said Jill Argall, the wildlife center director. "She talked to everybody and anybody about the wildlife center."

In 2009, she received a Jefferson Award for her efforts.

Even after her cancer diagnosis, her volunteer work often came first. "She actually held surgery for a few weeks because she was involved in the annual fundraiser for the Animal Rescue League," Mr. Grimes said.

"That was a large part of her life; that's what she enjoyed doing."

In addition to her husband, she is survived by three siblings, Sharon Senaway of Baldwin; Kathleen Mills of West Lafayette, Ind.; and Joseph Wikert of Fishers, Ind.

Friends and family will be received at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday immediately before the memorial service at Jobe Funeral Home & Crematory, 445 Beatty Road and Route 48, Monroeville.

The family suggests donations to the Animal Rescue League Wildlife Center or the Ohio Basset Hound Rescue.


Alex Zimmerman: or 412-263-3909.


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