Corporate nurse Cora Reyes: A community girl at heart

The adage ‘Work hard and party harder’ seems to apply to RN Cora Reyes who is wearing a Patis Tesoro flapper dress in this 1990s photo.

The adage ‘Work hard and party harder’ seems to apply to RN Cora Reyes who is wearing a Patis Tesoro flapper dress in this 1990s photo.

By Cristina DC Pastor

For corporate nurse Corazon Reyes, 73, what ails traders, bankers and finance professionals can be a lot of things. Stress can be a health risk just like headaches and colds and the occasional accident on the job.

Cora is a staff nurse at JP Morgan Chase & Co., a position she has held for more than 35 years. She was previously the bank’s Chief Nurse for about a decade until multiple mergers downsized her title but not the responsibilities. As one of the five staff nurses at the corporate headquarters on Park Avenue, she evaluates employees’ medical condition when they come in the Health and Wellness Center, making sure they are well enough to work managing clients’ assets.

“Blood pressure, level of blood sugar, and cholesterol profile are checked for some of our 5K employees in the midtown campus,” she said in an interview with The FilAm. “We want to help them achieve a healthy lifestyle.”

Cora is the only Filipino nurse in the Midtown office, but there are other Filipino nurses in other JPMorgan offices at Wall Street, in Brooklyn, Jersey City, Chicago, and Texas. “They like Filipino nurses, hardworking and hindi ma-reklamo,” she put it bluntly and with a silent laugh.

A cardiac condition early in her career, sidelined Cora while working two jobs. She quit working at Jewish Memorial Hospital and stayed at St. Elizabeth of St. Clare’s Hospital for 11 years. But both hospitals closed down in 1981, putting many Filipino nurses out of work.

In 1982, she was hired by Chase, now known as JPMorgan Chase & Co. It was a difficult start working the evening shift and attending to four young children at home. It was not until five years later that she worked regular hours; it has been 36 auspicious years.

Farmer’s daughter
In life and in love, Cora Cajucom Reyes had an early start.

“I am the sixth child from the eldest. When my older siblings went to school I always ran after them to tag along that my mother just decided to enroll me,” she said.

She started schooling at age 3 and was a Graduate Nurse at age 19. Work at Manila’s Singian Clinic was waiting for her after graduation.

Her father, Cesar Aquino Cajucom, farmed onions. His family owned tracks of land in Bongabon, Nueva Ecija, and for a time they were known as the biggest onion growers in the Philippines. Her mother, Mercedes Buenaventura Martinez, was a stay-at-home mom who made sure that all her 10 children had the right care and received much-needed attention.

Kits and Cora: Then and now

Kits and Cora: Then and now

She met Francisco ‘Kits’ Reyes, who hails from Malolos, Bulacan, when her older brother had an accident and was rushed to the National Orthopedic Hospital. Kits was the surgical physician. He thought Cora was lovely but a bit sassy.

“Mukhang suplada daw ako. Parang na-challenge sa akin so he asked one of the nurses to introduce him to me,” she recalled in amusement at the initial tension between them.

Obviously smitten, he followed her to the U.S. when she found work at the University of Texas Medical Branch. Turned out, he too had a job waiting for him in the U.S. They married in 1972 and began a life together in New York City.

“We’ve always lived in New York, more than 45 years,” she said. Kits, now retired, and Cora live at the Upper West Side within walking distance of the Cloisters, the majestic museum specializing in the Medieval Arts.

They have four children: Carlo Virgilio, Michael Dane Pier Claudine, and Robin Francis; and three grandchildren Vivien Giselle, Vince Miguel, and Damien Arryn.

Community leader
Connection to the Filipino community sustained Cora and gave her something to get busy with after work. She joined many organizations and led some of them. She became active with fundraising, organizing, and engaging in civic work, joined and led medical missions. She has been a past president of the Auxiliary to the Philippine Medical Association in America, the Auxiliary to the Association of Philippine Physicians in America, and Friends Indeed USA.

Her breakout year was 1999 when she was named Overall Chair at PIDC or the Philippine Independence Day Committee and walked Madison Avenue resplendent in her Filipiniana terno designed by her couturier brother Tony Cajucom.

“I love being in the community. I love the parties, the people, my friends,” Cora was gushing. “Enjoy talaga ako.”

At one time, she was involved with more than a dozen organizations, volunteering in various capacities. Nowadays, she has scaled down to a few, among them Friends Indeed, and medical auxiliaries she used to head, her school alumni organization, Bulacan Medical Missions, which she continues to head, and the Philippine-American Friendship Committee or PAFCOM, where she was a Grand Marshal, and the American Association of Occupational Health Nurses.

“Hindi ako nakikihalo sa away,” said Cora, surveying the groups that have endured. “I always try to stay above it all.”

The turbulence at PIDCI she is watching from a distance. “Mahirap sagutin,” she replied when asked what she thought the contending parties should do to come to an agreement.

She mused, “Kung sa akin lang, sana tanggapin uli ng consulate na sila ang mag-oversee. Mas gusto ko under them because everybody will listen to them. Walang dayaan.”

With retirement just around the corner, Cora looks forward to spending more time with her grandson, Damien Arryn. Although she wants to remain connected to the community, she would also love to travel, to do volunteer work, and continue her medical missions.

“Kits has been waiting for me to retire. Ako naman I love my job. I want to stay as long as I can,” she said.

© The FilAm 2018

The ever-growing Reyes family. Photo taken in Jersey City.

The ever-growing Reyes family. Photo taken in Jersey City.

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