|Patricia Libby in 1942, |
at age 19
Libby’s maternal grandparents traced their roots back to colonial days in the New Hampshire seacoast and the Plymouth, Massachusetts, area; her grandmother was descended from at least three Mayflower passengers, including the first governor of Massachusetts, William Bradford. Libby’s mother, Lucy Austin, was born in 1893 in Boston but grew up in Manhattan and New Jersey, likely spending time in the Plymouth area with her mother’s family.
Libby’s father, Frank Hayes, was born in 1894 in Boston to a Canadian immigrant mother whose family was originally from Ireland. His father, whose exact identity is not clear, was also Canadian Irish and possibly died when Frank was a toddler. When Frank was five, his mother married a man 20 years older than herself, and at some point before he was 16, Frank began living with his father’s sister Annie, who was at that time twice a widow at the age of 53. Frank grew up in the Boston area and in Duxbury, where his mother lived most of her life, and it is likely there that Libby’s parents met. They married in the Boston suburb of Chelsea in 1917 and moved to Chicago. Libby’s only sibling, born five years before her in 1918, died a week shy of his first birthday of a congenital heart defect. A few years after Libby was born, the family moved to Los Angeles, where they remained. “Her father was a salesman,” recalls Rector. “He was always wanted to be a doctor, but they were very poor and he didn’t have the funds to complete the education for that. He had a medical bag and was always patching people together. He was like the neighborhood on-call guy if you had any problem.”
Libby met her husband, Russell Libby, in Los Angeles. He was born in Texas and, like her, moved with his family to California before the age of ten. He, too, had had an older brother who had died at age 11 months. The couple married in 1942. Their first child, Dianne, was born the following year, and their second daughter, Melody, arrived four years later. Ralph Libby worked for the West Covina fire department for the rest of his career, eventually serving as captain.
Patricia Libby was working, too, and had published more than 100 stories by 1963, when she was 40. “She was writing when I was a pre-teen,” Rector says. “She wrote mostly short stories for magazines—True Story, True Romance—plus her three books. The stories were a little racy for the times—she had that little naughty side.”
Interestingly, though she was a successful writer, Libby billed herself primarily as a housewife in the two author’s biographies published in Hollywood Nurse and Cover Girl Nurse. “Writing for romance novels and magazines probably wasn’t the most highly thought-of thing in those days,” Rector suggests. “At that time women didn’t work outside the home for personal fulfillment; they only did it out of necessity, and the only respectable things were being a nurse or a schoolteacher or a clerk. Women hardly made any money for anything they did in those days. My mother would have loved to have been a career woman, but my dad just wouldn’t have allowed that.” The irony is, of course, that Libby actually had a career, much as it might have been helpful at that time to pretend otherwise.
Libby’s interest in writing nurse novels and short medical fiction for magazines likely came from her own interest in medicine. “She would have loved to have been a nurse. She was always intrested in the medical field,” Rector says. Libby’s author biography for Cover Girl Nurse states that she was a volunteer hospital worker for the Los Angeles Heart Association, though Rector declares that Libby never worked in a hospital: “She did a lot of work for the Heart Association. She wrote some articles, public relations pieces, and volunteered to walk the neighborhood and get donations.” Libby’s interest in the Heart Association was personal. “She actually had a mild heart attack herself when she was 32 years old,” Rector recalls. “My grandmother also had a heart condition, and my mother’s little brother died because he had a hole in his heart.”
Libby’s inspiration for Hollywood Nurse, she reported in her author’s biography for that book, came from Rector’s career as a child television actor. “During her training and professional appearances I came to know many of the Hollywood personalities, their problems and their way of life,” Libby is quoted as saying. Rector recalls, “She loved it, going to Hollywood or different places with me on some kind of shoot. That was a thrill for her.”
Another of Libby’s passions was travel. “My parents had been to so many places,” Rector notes. “They went to Mexico and to Egypt, cruises all over. They went to Hawaii in maybe 1960, when that was still pretty rare.” Libby put her travels to professional use; Cover Girl Nurse, written in 1963, was set in Hawaii, and she also wrote travel articles for magazines. “My dad always loved boats and ended up with a big beautiful one with three staterooms,” Rector says. “He’d take the boat down to Mexico and she’d fly down and meet him, and they’d be down there for a month. She actually was kind of afraid of the water, so I was impressed that she would do that for him.”
Later in life, Libby and her husband moved to Huntington Beach, and he died at age 88 in 2009. She died four years later, at age 90, survived by her two daughters, seven grandchildren, and eight great-grandchildren. “She was a dynamic, fun-loving person, adored by family and friends, and was active up until three weeks before her passing. She was a published author, loved entertaining, cooking, eating out, visiting with friends, being with family, shopping, going to movies and most of all traveling. She went on 78 cruises,” her obituary notes. “She will live on on our hearts forever.”