Agnes Clare (Nelle) Soehngen, born 13 August 1932, was named for her cousin, Agnes Wernsing. The youngest of four children—three girls and a boy—Agnes Nelle was a child of the Depression. The family lived in Shrewsbury, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis, until her father lost his job in the economic downturn.

A carpenter by trade, Irwin Nelle moved his wife Cecelia and their children seven miles north to live with his sister in Wellston. Agnes remembered her childhood as a fun time spent riding bikes and playing paper dolls with her friends. Her bike was built by her brother, Jack, from scrap pieces he found. Many of her play clothes in those years were made from flour sacks by her mother.

Agnes was baptized at St. Michael Catholic Church in Shrewsbury, but after the family moved to Wellston, they attended Notre Dame de Lourdes. Agnes also attended grade school at that parish. She followed her sister, Joan, to Xavier High School. Agnes worked at Muellings grocery store to help pay the $20 tuition. Joan was three years older and they were close friends growing up and through adulthood.

Agnes’s graduating class from Xavier consisted of thirty-five girls. Not being sure what she wanted to do after high school, Agnes followed some of her classmates to DePaul Nursing School, which proved to be the foundation of a rewarding career. She graduated from the program and received her Registered Nurse (RN) pin in 1954.

Agnes worked for several doctors in their offices before taking a job at DePaul Hospital in the labor and delivery department helping bring new babies into the world. A colleague said she was so good at what she did she could have been a midwife, but she always deferred to the doctor in charge. Over the years, she worked at St. Mary’s Hospital, Christian Northwest, and the new DePaul in Bridgeton.

Agnes Soehngen
Agnes (Nelle) Soehngen
Photo in the collection of Jane (Soehngen) Theissen
Used with permission

On 23 June 1956, she married Donald William Soehngen in a ceremony at Notre Dame de Lourdes Church. Her family life was as rewarding as her professional life. She and Don brought six children into the world—four girls and two boys—and raised them all to be successful with families of their own, including ten grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

After a long career, she and Don both retired in 1994 and spent the next several years traveling. Trips included visits to Italy, Paris, London, San Diego, Las Vegas, Florida, Arizona, and a Mississippi River cruise, among others. Golf and bowling with friends, along with lots of time spent with grandchildren took up the rest of their time.

Having lost her parents, siblings, and many friends to death, and developing some health issues, Agnes began to slow down in her mid-eighties. The development of memory issues was especially frustrating for her. She died on 16 November 2020 at the age of eighty-eight and was buried at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in south St. Louis County.

Written by Jane (Soehngen) Theissen
January 2021
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Last Modified: 29-Apr-2021 14:58