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Lloydena "Dena" M. Hayden (Taylor)

Vassar, Mich.

Dena Hayden of Vassar, Mich., passed away peacefully on June 12, 2019, at the age of 73. Dena was born on Sept. 22, 1945, to Lloyd and Clare Taylor in Seattle, Wash. She was the oldest of four children who grew up and attended school in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. After graduating high school, she attended St. Luke's School of Nursing and became a registered nurse. Feeling a call to serve her country and help others, she entered the U.S. Army Nurse Corps as a 2nd lieutenant. She was the first woman from Cedar Rapids to commission as an Army nurse during the Vietnam War. After six weeks of basic training at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas, she was assigned to the 249th Army General Hospital in Asaka, Japan. Here, she cared for soldiers who suffered severe physical trauma from the Vietnam War. She cared for her patients with the compassion and empathy that characterized her entire life. While in Japan, she met a surgical technician from Flint, Mich., who would become the love of her life, John Hayden. Leaving the Army after two years of honorable service, Dena and John settled in Michigan. After a brief period working as a nurse in Flint, she became a full-time mother to raise their children in a loving home teaching about commitment, compassion and appreciating life's simple pleasures. She and John cultivated a passion for gardening and finding ways to live a life more in balance with nature. Some of her simplest pleasures were picking June strawberries and hanging laundry on her clothesline. As the children grew older, she felt a calling to serve in another way; as an English composition and literature teacher. She received a B.A. in English from Saginaw Valley State University and then an M.A. from Central Michigan University. She taught a broad range of students from all walks of life at SVSU, CMU, Delta College and Mott Community College. She taught with the same care and compassion she showed as a nurse, wife and mother. She made a lasting impact on so many of her students. In retirement, she enjoyed day-traveling around the thumb of Michigan with John to observe the natural beauty of the area in sync with the seasons, especially on the days of the summer and winter solstices. She also found great joy in simply sitting on her patio watching the natural beauty of her backyard birds, butterflies and gardens.
Dena is survived by her best friend and husband, John, and their two sons, Mike and his wife, Paula of York, Pa., and Rob of Bear Lake, Mich. She had four grandchildren, Andrew, Savannah, Connor and Lukas; and great-grandson, Wesson. She also is survived by her brothers, Dave Taylor of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and his wife, Mary, as well as Jim Taylor of Denton, Texas, his wife, Miki; nephews, Brendan and Aiden; and niece, Vanessa.
She is preceded in death by her parents and her brother, Russell Taylor.
More than anything else, her greatest gift was being able to listen without judgment and provide friendship and love for all who were blessed to know her. Those planning an expression of sympathy are asked to consider memorial contributions to the Frankenmuth Public Library or Vassar Public Schools. To sign online guestbook, visit www.cremationsocietymidmi.com/obituaries/Lloydena-Dena-Hayden/#!/Obituary.
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