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Eleanor "Ellie" Oakes was born in 1927 in Alameda, California. She was trained as a nurse at Mary's Health in San Francisco, California. Eleanor came to Alaska in 1951 as a public health nurse stationed at the US Public Health Service Native hospital in Tanana, Alaska. Her husband was a doctor with the Public Health Service and when he was transferred from Tanana to Nome, Alaska in 1953, Eleanor went with him. She has lived and worked in Nome as a medical provider ever since. Mostly she worked out of the hospital in Nome, but sometimes made trips to the neighboring villages. Eleanor retired from being a nurse in 1990 and continued to live in Nome.