Margaret Comerford Freda, a nurse and clinical professor who focused largely on preventing premature births and volunteered to spread awareness, died Monday at her Huntington Bay home. She was 69.
Freda taught and conducted research on issues related to maternal and fetal medicine for the last 26 years with the obstetrics, gynecology and women's health department of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx.
She was a volunteer, journal editor and author, frequently sought as conference speaker in a career spanning more than four decades, relatives said. She was a driven woman who encouraged others to pursue higher goals, relatives said.
"My friends always joked, as teenagers, that she was always trying to teach them, showing them educational videos, and telling them that she wanted women to be proud," said her daughter Alyse Freda-Colon, a psychotherapist in Huntington. "She was always trying to help people move forward."
Freda was born in Queens and grew up in Bayville. She graduated in 1963 from St. Dominic High in Oyster Bay. She dated a boy she met in ninth grade, but by graduation he was set on becoming a priest.
She had gone on to study for a nursing diploma at Misericordia Hospital School of Nursing in the Bronx, a now-defunct institution. While a student there, the seminary student came to visit and he decided to change paths.
"I decided to leave the seminary," said John Freda, whom she described as "the love of her life" in a note to relatives. They married at 21 and stayed together for 48 years. "I went back and saw her and I knew it would be the two of us together from there on," he said.
Freda worked as a nurse from the mid-1960s on, with stints at Winthrop-University Hospital in Mineola, the former Anchorage Community Hospital in Alaska, the former Wichita General Hospital in Texas, and Huntington Hospital.
Relatives said she worked to become the best in her field, earning a bachelor's in nursing from Stony Brook University in the mid-1970s. She earned her master's in nursing from New York University in the late 1970s and a doctorate in health education research from Columbia in the 1980s.
She was committed to health education. Since the 1980s, she volunteered for the March of Dimes, becoming the first chairwoman of the group's Nurse Advisory Council. The nonprofit named its Dr. Margaret C. Freda "Saving Babies, Together" Award in her honor in 2011.
Jennifer L. Howse, president of the March of Dimes, said Freda "was an extraordinary individual who devoted her life to improving the health of women and babies" who made a difference, helping to establish nursing modules that "are now a trusted source of high-quality, continuing education for nurses across the country."
Freda's commitment to mentorship was such, said her husband, that, while receiving treatment for giant-cell arteritis, she encouraged nurses caring for her. "Rather than offer them a box of doughnuts to thank them, she offered two of them fully paid weekend seminars in nursing," he said.
Additional survivors are daughter Carrie Semelsberger, a nurse practitioner from Huntington; two sons-in-law; four grandchildren; and sister Elizabeth Weiss of Jamesport.
A memorial service will be held Sunday at 7:30 p.m. at the M.A. Connell Funeral Home in Huntington Station.