Marisa Bacani, who nursed patients at the Northport VA Medical Center, died Thursday night at Good Shepherd Hospice in Port Jefferson. She was 75.
The cause was complications following a stroke, said her daughter, Rosalyn Bacani.
Bacani was a soothing, sure-handed presence on the graveyard shift in the mental health unit, colleagues said. "She was dealing with the veterans and dealing with the families," said a fellow nurse, Zita Pinero. "You have to deal with both, and she did it with a positive attitude."
Bacani, a native of Tugatog, in the Philippines, graduated from the University of Santo Tomas in Manila in 1960 and in 1962 moved to New York City, joining a wave of nurses recruited from abroad to meet a nationwide nursing shortage.
She was the first in her family to attend medical school, and the first to immigrate to the United States, Rosalyn Bacani said. Being a pioneer carried responsibility: "Anytime they had a payday, it was an event for them to go to a bank around Rockefeller Center and send money back to the Philippines."
Bacani transferred in the late '70s to Northport VA and worked there until 2002.
In a statement released by the VA, Patricia Burke, the associate director of patient care, said Bacani was "compassionate and very tender with our veterans. She was a skilled clinician with a wonderful sense of humor. What most people remember about her is her sharp sense of humor. She always could make both staff and patients laugh. She always brightened our days through her humor."
She and her husband, Ruben Bacani, moved in 1976 from Manhattan to Holbrook, where they were among the first members of a small but vibrant Filipino community. About 180 Holbrook residents identified as Filipino in 2013, according to the U.S. Census.
Bacani was born Jan. 17, 1940. Bacani attended daily Catholic Mass at The Church of the Good Shepherd in Holbrook, where she served as a Eucharistic minister, taught religion classes and participated in prayer groups that visited parish homes.
Besides her daughter, she is survived by a brother, Jesus Cabrera, and a son, Gregory Bacani, all of Holbrook. Her husband died in May 2012.
Visiting is Saturday and Sunday at Maloney's Holbrook Funeral Home from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. A funeral will be held Monday at 10 a.m. at Good Shepherd.