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Liza Quane of South Hempstead, family matriarch and operating-room nurse, dies at 80

Liza Quane.

Liza Quane. Photo Credit: Quane family

Liza Quane, a native of Manila, had an appreciation for precision — for things being done just so.

That applied to her work in hospital operating-room settings, as well as to preparing family recipes in her South Hempstead kitchen, even down to choosing her shade of lipstick — make that rose pink, family members said.

The woman who spent 40 years as an operating-room nurse or supervisor was also a much-admired beacon for her younger cousins, nieces and nephews, both in the United States and the Philippines, earning her the designation of “family matriarch,” said Mike Quane, her husband of 47 years.

Hideliza A. Quane, known as Liza, died June 26 at South Shore Medical and Rehabilitation Center, Freeport, after a long struggle with respiratory complications of Parkinson's disease, he said. She was 80.

For his “practical and organized” wife, everything was about “being sure that things were done the right way.” And in an operating-room setting, he said, “you’ve got to be correct,” with no place for this-is-good-enough thinking.  

“Every place she went she was determined that it would be known for excellence,” and that might just have entailed having a few words — sometimes heated — with a doctor in need of a protocol refresher, said her husband, who formerly worked in media relations roles at area hospitals.

The two met in 1971. He was working in Manhattan and by then the former Liza Atienza was a nurse in the city, with both invited to the same birthday party. It was there that four matches were made, he said, with that number of marriages ensuing, his included.

“She liked to dance and I liked to dance,” so their compatibility that night on the dance floor started it all, with their wedding the following year and their move to South Hempstead soon after.

Born Dec. 14, 1938, in Manila to Ramon Atienza and Mercedes Reyes, Quane followed other relatives into health care, graduating in 1960 from what is now Trinity University of Asia-St. Luke’s College of Nursing in Manila.

The following year she came to the United States as a nursing exchange student at a medical center in Philadelphia.

Quane went on to work at a number of other hospitals, with the longest stretch being 17 years at St. Francis Hospital, The Heart Center, in Roslyn, her husband said.

“She left behind such a great legacy,” said her daughter Jessica Serpico of West Babylon, an account executive in the fashion industry. “When I’m stressed out with work or life, I always think of how my mom would handle it,” she said. “I try to live by her example every day. That no matter what, just keep pushing through and be strong.”

She was especially inspired by her mother’s reach beyond work hours. That included giving education and career assistance to family, as well as how-to-adjust advice to nurses new to the United States. After retiring in 2001, her mother served as national president of the St. Luke's Alumni Nursing Foundation USA.

Indeed, Quane was referred to by family as “Ate Liza,” said her cousin, Marieta Atienza, a registered nurse in Portland, Maine. Ate is a title of respect for an older woman.

She was “an example you got to look up to,” Atienza said: a strong, well-educated professional woman who inspired any number of family members, herself included, to follow the path into health care.

Cooking was another of Quane’s passions, especially introducing friends to Filipino cuisine, her husband said.

Her specialty was pancit, a noodles-and-vegetables dish, he said, but it was her recipe for gingered squid that snared first prize in a 1982 seafood recipe contest. The endeavor was aimed at popularizing seafoods that are often “wasted in this country but highly prized in other parts of the world,” Newsday wrote. The judges “unanimously awarded the first prize to Liza Quane for her unusual squid preparation.”

Travel was another pleasure, especially as her husband took on a side gig as a travel writer. That included any number of her family visits and reunions in the United States and abroad — think Australia, Zurich, Malaysia, the environs of Stuttgart — “we were visiting Atienzas all around the globe,” he said.

And, of course, his wife tended to the likes of packing and making sure they were set with their passports and the right visas. She was “still kind of running the things that needed to be done.”

Atienza also pointed to her cousin’s fashion flair, staying up-to-date with the latest looks. Through the years, styles changed, and her cousin followed suit, Atienza said, but she never saw her without her favorite color lipstick, rose pink, “the perfect shade for her.”

Other survivors include brothers Nestor of Jamaica, Queens, and Reynaldo of Huntington, and sisters Cora Datinguinoo and Mercedes Matias, both in the Philippines.

A wake was held June 29 and 30 at Thomas Glynn Funeral Home, Rockville Centre, with a funeral Mass celebrated July 1 at St. Agnes Cathedral, also in Rockville Centre.

Her husband said Quane had a strong devotion to St. Anthony of Padua, whose image will be carved on her tombstone in St. Charles Cemetery, East Farmingdale.

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