Retired Lt. Col. Margaret A. Hollinger, the oldest surviving member of the Army Nurse Corps at age 102, passed away Thursday, January 17, 2013 in Seattle. Her military career spanned 28 years in three phases beginning in 1935 and concluding in 1963 when she retired as Chief Nurse of the Fourth Army headquartered at Fort Sam Houston, Texas.
Between her stints of military service, she was a nurse with the Veterans Administration, worked in hospitals in North Dakota, Montana, Oregon, and California, and did private in-home nursing.
During World War II she volunteered as a surgical nurse in the famed 120th Evacuation Field Hospital that cared for front line soldiers under General Patton' command in Western Europe.
Her service with the 120th Evac included providing medical care to recently liberated survivors of the Buchenwald Concentration Camp. Her efforts to aid Buchenwald survivors have been honored by the Israeli government and by Holocaust survivor groups in Israel and the U.S.
While with the 120th Evac Hollinger was lost behind enemy lines for several days after volunteering to go into the field to assist a wounded soldier who could not be moved.
Her military assignments included service in Korea as Chief Nurse of a Mobile Army Surgical force (MAS) during the period that included the "April Revolution" in 1960. She also served in Hawaii, Washington, Virginia, Oregon, and Texas including service at Madigan, Tripler and Walter Reed hospitals.
Among her decorations are two Battle Stars for her European service in WWII, a National Service Medal, WWII Service Medal, and a U.S. Army Commendation medal.
Hollinger had seen many changes in the Army Nurse Corps during her career. When she first entered the Army Nurse Corps in 1935 it was not yet part of the U.S. Army and only women could serve. At the time of her retirement the highest rank an Army nurse could achieve was colonel.
Hollinger became an R.N. in 1935 after graduating from St. Alexis School of Nursing (University of Mary) in Bismarck, N.D. She received her bachelor's degree in nursing and education at the University of Washington in 1950, and then earned a master's degree in hospital administration from Baylor University in 1957. She was one of the first women to enter the hospital administration field.
After retiring from the military, Hollinger served as a hospital administrator in Oregon and then joined Washington State's Department of Social & Health Services.
Her recent honors include the University of Washington School of Nursing's first Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012. She had used her WWII GI benefits to earn her degree from the UW.
Last year she was honored with a visit by Rabbi Yisreal Lau, former Chief Rabbi of Israel. He is the youngest survivor of Buchenwald and is Chairman of Yad Vashem, Israel's official memorial to Jewish Holocaust victims. Hollinger and other 120th Evac nurses cared for survivors including Lau's brother Naphtali Lau-Lavie and their friend Biren Vizonski who both now reside in Israel.
She is a first generation American born in Gladstone, North Dakota, in 1910 to Austrian-Hungarian immigrants Ignatz and Theresia Hollinger. She was the eldest of ten children and learned to speak English in school.
During the Great Depression she had to drop out of school to help support her family, but she returned to graduate in 1931 from Gladstone High School at age 21. Hollinger worked to support herself and put herself through nursing school during the Great Depression. She was the first in her family to graduate from high school or college.
Survivors include her sisters Arlene (Art) Brackebusch, LaVern (Howard) Cornish, brother Anton Hollinger, all of Montana; and her sister-in-law Audrey (John) Hollinger of Seattle.
Surviving nieces are Patty (Don) Conrard; Lynda (Steven) Pennington; Nancy (Richard) Hollinger; Beth (Dave) Robbins; Lynn (Mike) Koeppen; Karen (Gregg) Hardy; Cheryl (Carl) Anderson; and Kathy (Dan) Delys.
Surviving nephews are: Gene (Liz) Kraiter; Jeff (Paula) Delys; Mike (Danae) Hollinger; Joe (Chi) Hollinger; Brent (Sandy) Hollinger; Brian (Judy) Hollinger; Scott (Dia) Hollinger; Mark (Jil) Hollinger; and Donald (Lori) Cornish.
Surviving great-nieces are: Kathleen Hollinger, Holly Hollinger, Teresa Anderson, A'Dree Rose Hollinger, and Kirstin Delys.
Surviving great-nephews are: Mark Conrard, Kurt Hardy, Derek Robbins, Dylan Robbins, Owen (Kaleigh) Koeppen, Kyle Kraiter, BJ (Yunita) Hollinger, Luke (Annah) Anderson, Spencer Cornish, Jeff (Jeri) Delys Jr., Scott (Alison) Delys, Paul Delys, Dane Hollinger, Drew Hollinger, Brooks Hollinger, and Chris Hollinger.
Her surviving great-great niece is Teal Delys and great-great nephew is Taylor Delys.
Hollinger is predeceased by her parents; brothers Peter, John, and Joe Hollinger; her sisters Elizabeth Kraiter and Ann Delys; her sisters-in-law Ann (Peter), Jean (Joe), and Barbara (Anton) Hollinger; and her brothers-in-law Mike Kraiter and Fred Delys.
Viewing will be 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday, January 27, at Sunset Hills Funeral Home, Bellevue. Catholic services will be at 1 p.m. in Sunset Hills' Chapel. A memorial reception will immediately follow at Sunset Hills.
Inurnment will be at Arlington National Cemetery this spring.
Remembrances may be made to: University of Washington School of Nursing's Nursing Scholarship Fund; Wounded Warriors Project's "In Memory Fund;" or Seattle's Washington State Holocaust Education Center's Tribute Fund.
The family's deep appreciation goes to the Caroline Kline Galland Home staff, Seattle; the Jewish community in Seattle and Israel; the JBLM Madigan Hospital Army nurses; the U.W. School of Nursing, the U.S. Army Nurse Corp., and Elizabeth Hernandez of Seattle.