Hidden Heroes of WWII (Part V): DeKalb County Volunteer Nurse’s Aide Corps

DeKalb County Volunteer Nurse’s Aide Corps

Red Cross volunteer nurses aide poster
Recruiting poster for Volunteer Nurse’s Aides. (Image source: University of Wisconsin-Madison Libraries)

Shortly after the start of the war, hospitals nationwide were facing a severe shortage of nurses and nurse’s aides. Many of the highly skilled young nurses were recruited into the military nurses corps, leaving a dire shortage of staff at civilian hospitals. To help fill this need, the American Red Cross worked with the Office of Civilian Defense to train 100,000 volunteers to be nurse’s aides. In DeKalb County, Mrs. Ulla May Schreck and a committee began training Volunteer Nurse’s Aides in June 1942 under the instruction of Elaine Fisher, R.N. Other instructors and coordinators included Nancy L. Hennis, Katherine Kane, Ruth E. Lankton and Bernice E. Schwirtz. 

For the next few years, there were courses offered every few months in DeKalb County, and over 100 women completed the course. During the war, most volunteer nurse’s aides were assigned to Glidden Hospital and St. Mary’s Hospital, although some most likely worked at other area hospitals as well. They were trained to do light nursing work, such as making beds, giving baths, taking temperatures and pulse, so that the fully trained nurses were able to care for patients with more advanced needs. They automatically became members of the Volunteer Nurse’s Aide Corps of DeKalb County upon completing their courses. Many of these women continued in the medical profession after volunteering, and later joined the Cadet Nursing Corps or became full-time professional nurse’s aides or nurses. For many of these women, their volunteer work was not isolated to this service during the war, but was part of a lifelong commitment to volunteering and public service. While not everyone who completed the course was able to fulfill their volunteering commitment for the entirety of the war, their collective effort made it possible for the local hospitals to continue serving the local area.

Volunteer Nurse's Aides
The class of Volunteer Nurse’s Aides in DeKalb in 1945. (Image source: Daily Chronicle (DeKalb, IL) 20 Oct 1945, p. 3)

The following women completed the Volunteer Nurse’s Aide course in the year indicated, and most were active volunteers at local hospitals throughout the war:  

    • Eva Linnea Anderson, Sycamore, 1943
    • Grace Marie Andrews, DeKalb, 1942
    • Shirley Louise Avery, DeKalb, 1943
    • Eileen Louise Benson, Shabbona, 1943
    • Margaret Mary “Peg” Berkes, DeKalb, 1945
    • Vivian Bock, Sycamore, 1943
    • Jeanne Loraine Bodeen, Mayfield, 1943
    • Maxine Mary Bowling, Sycamore, 1945
    • Elizabeth Jane Bradt, DeKalb, 1945
    • Elizabeth Florence Budrow, DeKalb, 1942
    • Helen Marie Burcum, Sycamore, 1943
    • Katherine Burkart, Sycamore, 1945
    • Blanche Burrell, DeKalb, 1945
    • Beatrice Loretta Carlson, Sycamore, 1943
    • Doris J. Carter, Sycamore, 1943
    • Mildred Marie Carter, Sycamore, 1943
    • Marion L. Chesnutt, Sycamore, 1943
    • Carol Clubb, ?, 1943
    • Viola  Mae Cochrane, DeKalb, 1944
    • Grace Coffey, Sycamore, 1943
    • Charlotte L. Conrad, Sycamore, 1942
    • Adoline B. Culver, DeKalb, 1942
    • Daisy Luella Daniels, Sycamore, 1942
    • Mary Clare Dieter, Amboy, IL / DeKalb, 1944
    • Hilda J. Dodge, DeKalb, 1944
    • Adele Marie Donohue, DeKalb, 1944
    • Catherine M. Dvorak, DeKalb, 1944
    • Marjorie Lucile Eaton, DeKalb, 1942
    • Edna M. Ebbesen, DeKalb, 1945
    • Virginia Eliason, ?, 1944
    • Smiljana “Mildred” Eror, DeKalb, 1944
    • Agnes Cecilia Farrell, DeKalb, 1942
    • Mabel Elizabeth Gates, DeKalb, 1945
    • Frances R. Gray, DeKalb, 1945
    • Dorothy Esther Grundy, DeKalb, 1942
    • Agnes Jeannie Hainds, DeKalb, 1942
    • Lucille L. Hakala, DeKalb, 1945
    • Dorothy Mae Hallgren, DeKalb, 1945
    • Marjorie Ellenor Hallgren, DeKalb, 1945
    • Irene Mabel Hanson, Leland, 1945
    • Alyce Pauline Holcomb, Sycamore, 1943
    • Marilynn J. Hope, DeKalb, 1942
    • Eva Marie Hutter, DeKalb / Somonauk, 1945
    • Genevieve Marie Jacobson, DeKalb, 1945
    • Charlotte Helen Johnson, DeKalb, 1945
    • Mary Lou Kaesser, DeKalb, 1944
    • Minnie Marie Kaisher, DeKalb, 1942
    • Betty Jane Kennedy, DeKalb, 1945
    • Mary Catherine Kennedy , DeKalb, 1944
    • Yvonne Lorraine Kerr, DeKalb, 1944
    • Fanny Maria Klasing, DeKalb, 1942
    • Helen M. Knudson, Sycamore, 1943
    • Arleen J. Krueger, Genoa, 1945
    • Dorothy Bernice Kukuczka, Sycamore, 1943
    • Vivian Pearl Letheby, Malta, 1945
    • Marion Louise Lydig, Sycamore, 1943
    • Miriam Mabel, Sycamore, 1945
    • Madalene Jean Maertz, Sycamore, 1943
    • Phyllis Elsie Maggeroli, DeKalb, 1944
    • Mayme S. Makela, DeKalb, 1942
    • Dorothy McCabe, DeKalb, 1942
    • Oneida Blanche “Nita” McClellan, DeKalb, 1945
    • Gladys Dorothy McGlynn, DeKalb, 1945
    • Myrtle J. McGuire, DeKalb, 1943
    • Mary Loretta McGirr, DeKalb / Afton, 1943
    • Mary M. Mitchell, DeKalb, 1944
    • Wella Pauline Moen, Sycamore, 1942
    • Wilma A. Motis, Sycamore, 1945
    • Lillian Mae Mueller, Maple Park, 1945
    • Mrs. Gerald Munson, ?, 1942
    • Thelma E. Murphy, DeKalb, 1942
    • Marie Murray, Sycamore, 1943
    • Ruth Nehring, DeKalb, 1945
    • Bettie Elizabeth Nelson, DeKalb, 1942
    • Dae Nelson, DeKalb?, 1943
    • Janet Loraine Nelson, Sycamore, 1943
    • Hazel E. Neujahr, DeKalb, 1945
    • Alice M. Petersen, DeKalb, 1944
    • Adele M. Petrocchi, DeKalb, 1943
    • Geneva Rosemarie Prather, DeKalb, 1945
    • Jeanne Putnam, ?, 1945
    • Grace Mabel Risley, DeKalb, 1943
    • Mary Lou Robertson, DeKalb, 1945
    • Charlotte  Victoria Sabin, Sycamore, 1943
    • Margaret Theresa Sailor, Sycamore, 1943
    • Gertrude Kate Scarlett, DeKalb, 1945
    • Evodia June Seablom, Maple Park, 1943
    • Eudora Jayne Shaw, DeKalb, 1942
    • Mareva Mildred Simmons, DeKalb, 1944
    • Mary Eleanor Slade, DeKalb, 1942
    • Lucille Maude Smith, DeKalb, 1944
    • Marilyn Jane “Lyn” Staderman, Sycamore, 1945
    • Shirley Ann Stevens, DeKalb, 1942
    • Dorothy Fredrika Swanson, DeKalb, 1942
    • Jannan Swift, Waterman, 1944
    • Luella Eileen Tedford, DeKalb, 1945
    • Helen Wilhelmina Telford, DeKalb, 1943
    • Lina Louise Trotter, DeKalb, 1942
    • Evelyn Katherine Turk, Maple Park, 1945
    • Lorraine E. Valentine, DeKalb, 1942
    • Lillian Elizabeth Varness, DeKalb, 1945
    • Virginia J. Wallace, Sycamore, 1943
    • Betty Wenzel, Kirkland, 1945
    • Dorothy B. Willrett, Malta, 1943
    • Dorothy M. Willrett , Malta, 1943
    • Chana Jean Wilson, DeKalb, 1942
    • Guyla Mae Winebrener, Mayfield, 1945
    • Jeann H. Wirtz, DeKalb, 1945
    • Helen Yusunas, DeKalb, 1944
    • Shirley Lorraine Zwiener, Sycamore, 1943

Volunteer Nurse's Aides 1942
The class of Volunteer Nurse’s Aides in DeKalb in 1942. (Image source: Daily Chronicle (DeKalb, IL) 29 Aug 1942, p. 3)
Volunteer Nurse's Aides 1942
The class of Volunteer Nurse’s Aides in DeKalb in 1942. (Image source: Daily Chronicle (DeKalb, IL) 28 Nov 1942, p. 3)
Volunteer Nurse's Aides of DeKalb 1943
The class of Volunteer Nurse’s Aides in DeKalb in 1943. (Image source: Daily Chronicle (DeKalb, IL) 9 Oct 1943, p. 3)
Volunteer Nurse's Aides 1944
The class of Volunteer Nurse’s Aides at St. Mary’s Hospital in 1944. (Image source: Daily Chronicle (DeKalb, IL) 11 Aug 1944, p. 3)
Volunteer Nurses Aides 1945
The class of Volunteer Nurse’s Aides at of Sycamore in 1945. (Image source: True Republican (Sycamore, IL) 17 Jul 1945, p. 6)
Volunteer Nurse's Aides 1945
The class of Volunteer Nurse’s Aides in DeKalb in 1945. (Image source: Daily Chronicle (DeKalb, IL) 19 Oct 1945, p. 5)


Other Notable Women

While many local women participated in the groups and organizations mentioned in this series, there were still many more who supported their community and country in other ways. Other notable women include:

  • Sarah “Sally” Fulton Reston, Sycamore. Was an accredited foreign correspondent for the New York Times in England during the war; was in the movie News Reel, “Ladies of the Press in the War Theater;” worked alongside her husband, who won the Pulitzer Prize in 1945.
  • Alice Palmquist, DeKalb. Was a Red Cross nurse who worked at a hospital in San Francisco. Other Red Cross Nurses who worked locally were Ellen M. Foiles, Hattie M. Borine, Maud Virginia Keyes, and Ruth E. Lankton.
  • Beverly J. Bickford of Sycamore and Martha G. Lanan of Kingston. They attended the University of Illinois in 1943, and were both members of the Women’s Auxiliary Training Corps, which was intended to prepare them for joining the WAC.
  • Eleanor Bennett, Barbara Duncan, and Elma Pantilla, graduates of DeKalb Township High School. They are mentioned in the Honor Roll of DeKalb High School graduates in the 1946 yearbook, but I have not found how they served.
  • Women who were involved in the DeKalb Civilian Defense Council, DeKalb County Civilian Defense Corps, Women’s Relief Corps, and Girl Scouts.
  • Women who worked in war jobs at local companies like Wurlitzer, Cyclone, General Electric, Interstate Aircraft, and others.
  • Women who worked in local agriculture jobs.
  • Women who were involved with scrap drives, war funds, and other fundraising.
Ad for War Jobs for Women
Ad in the Daily Chronicle (DeKalb, IL), 21 Oct 1943, p. 8


World War II was a unique time in history, because the war affected nearly every American, and most Americans supported their country and community in both large and small ways. Most women faced rationing of food and supplies, and spent more time working and volunteering outside the home. Many of the service-minded young women in these organizations eventually enlisted in a branch of the military while others remained strong leaders at home throughout the war. Many of these women had brothers, husbands, sons, fathers, daughters, and sisters who were enlisted servicemen, and their sacrifices were likely never far from the minds of those at home. Women young and old worked together to provide for their loved ones serving overseas and their neighbors at home. The efforts of these women did not win them any medals, but these home front heroines were dedicated workers and volunteers, and they deserve recognition for their service. 

For further reading about DeKalb County during WWII, I suggest Sycamore, Illinois during World War Two : a small Midwestern community’s contributions and sacrifices during the years 1940-1945 by Thomas Woodstrup and DeKalb Goes to War: A study of World War Two industrial production in an Illinois town, by Keith Lowman, both available at local public libraries. 

More information about the service of these women may be found at the Joiner History Room or by contacting the author. This honor roll was compiled from local newspaper articles, census records, obituaries, and other records found on Ancestry.com. The women’s names and hometowns reflect their names and permanent residences at the time of service during WWII. While I have striven for accuracy, I apologize for any mistakes. Please forward any corrections or additions to this honor roll to the author. 

This article was the last in a series about women of DeKalb County, Illinois during WWII. To read the other posts that were part of this series, click here.

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