Mary Gahagan Eastlake, 80, who retired in 1964 as nurse director of the U.S. Public Health Service's Indian health division, died of cancer Dec. 8 at Washington House in Alexandria.
Before beginning her work with Indians, Mrs. Eastlake was head nurse of Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore for about four years. In 1933, she joined the Bureau of Indian Affairs as nurse director, remaining there until 1943.
She then joined the Army Nurse Corps and served as chief nurse with the Army's 819th Hospital Center in Europe until 1946, achieving the rank of major.
Mrs. Eastlake then joined the Public Health Service, which in 1944 had taken over health services for American Indians from the Bureau of Indian Affairs. She was a consultant on Indian health before being named nurse director of the Indian health division.
Mrs. Eastlake had visited virtually every Indian reservation from Florida to Alaska during her public service career.
She had been on the staff of the San Carlos Hospital, which served more than 4,000 Apaches, had established the Practical Nursing School for Indian Girls at Albuquerque, N.M., and once competed professionally on a case with a Navajo medicine man, who scattered sand drawings on the floor and tried to chant the germs away.
"The drawings were beautiful," Mrs. Eastlake said in an interview, but she added that she didn't think much of basic medicine practiced Navajo style.
Mrs. Eastlake was born in Mount Jewett, Pa. She graduated from the Johns Hopkins Training School for Nurses and earned bachelor's and master's degrees from Teachers College at Columbia University in New York City.
She was awarded a Bronze Star Medal and a meritorious service unit plaque from the Army and a medal for meritorious service from the Public Health Service.
Her professional memberships included the American Hospital Association, the American Public Health Association, the American Nurses Association and the National League for Nursing. She belonged to the Order of the Eastern Star and the P.E.O.
Her husband, Fred Eastlake, died in 1959.There are no immediate survivors.