Women of World War II (1941-1945): Park University Alumni Student Veterans Collection

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The names of Park University women alumni and students that served during World War II were collected from publications of The Stylus, Alumni reunion publications, and various volumes of the Narva yearbook. Surviving personnel files held in the Frances Fishburn Archives and Special Collections, along with the genealogical expertise of researchers at the George S. Robb Centre for the Study of the Great War at Park University, finalized biographical information, service information and sketches on each servicemember. Photos, documents or letters held in said personnel files and in public records assisted with the narratives authored in this collection. Digital editions of the Narva can be accessed by going to: https://library.park.edu/home/archives

Servicemembers included in this collection were members of the United States Army Nurse Corps, Women's Army Corps, U. S. Navy Women Accepted for Volunteer Service, and U. S. Marine Corps Women's Reserve.

U.S. ARMY NURSE CORPS Formed by Congress in 1901, the USANC served under the supervision of the Army Medical Department. Nurses were mobilized to serve on the Pacific and European fronts, as well as during the North African and Italian campaigns. At the end of World War II, the USANC and U. S. Air Force Nurse Corps were 54,000 women strong.

U.S. WOMEN'S ARMY CORPS AND WOMEN'S ARMY AIR CORPS Formed as the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps on May 15, 1943 and transferred to active service on July 1, 1943. Members of WAC normally remained stateside as switchboard operators and office personnel. Some detachments served on the European and Pacific fronts. At the end of WWII, the WAC was 150,000 women strong.

U.S. NAVY WOMEN ACCEPTED FOR VOLUNTEER SERVICE Formed on July 21, 1942, primarily to operate shore stations while men served on active waters overseas. WAVES personnel made up a majority of the Office of Naval Operations, a majority of the enlisted women were highly skilled in the fields of mathematics, engineering, and aeronautics. At the end of WWII, the WAVES were 100,000 women strong.

U.S. MARINE CORPS WOMEN'S RESERVE Formed on July 30, 1942, intended to relieve Marines who would be sent overseas. The USMCWR were not mobilized overseas, instead, were stationed at Marine Corps air stations a majority working in clerical positions and semi-skilled trades positions. At the end of WWII, the USMCWR was 19,000 women strong.

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Frances Emily Aker (December 7, 1915-October 1, 2002)

Aker was born to Ernest Givens (1883-1958) and Mary Margaret Bullock (1891-1985) in Parkville, Mo., the youngest of two children. Raised in an original Main Street, Parkville home, Aker attended Park College until her junior year in 1936; Aker's brother, Reginald Bullock (1914-92), who became an acclaimed Platte County, Mo., historian and archaeologist, also attended Park for a semester in 1935. Aker left Park before her intended graduation in 1937, then married high school sweetheart Jesse Basil Shackelford (1913-80) on Oct. 15, 1938, in Kansas City, Mo. The couple were both called to serve upon the outbreak of World War II, with Aker enlisting in the Army Air Corps on Jan. 15, 1943. Aker completed her basic training at Fort Des Moines, Iowa, and was assigned to service at the Smokey Hill Army Air Field in Salina, Kan. While still in the service, Sgt. Shackelford (Aker) and her husband separated and she married John Howard Grant (1921-57) on April 17, 1944, in Omaha, Neb. Then Staff Sgt. Aviation Cadet Grant (Aker) was discharged on June 1, 1945. Her brother Reginald was also discharged from the Army within weeks of his sister. After her husband's discharge from the Air Force in December 1945, the couple moved to Grant's hometown of Green Bay, Wis., where they raised their three children. The family moved to Wyzata, Minn., in the 1950s, where Grant was an insurance salesman. After his death from a car collision in 1957, Aker and her children moved to Park Hills, Ill., where she worked for the Dixie Dairy Company in Chicago Heights, Ill. After her retirement, Aker was active in the Daughters of the American Revolution and South Suburban Genealogy-Historical Society in Chicago Heights. Aker died in Park Forest, Ill. on Oct. 1, 2002, and is buried in Allouez Catholic Cemetery, Green Bay.

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Beverly Jean Jessen (October 28, 1919-October 15, 2013)

Jessen was born to Jacob Hans Friedrich (1889-1962) and Hazel Perry (1890-1980) in Elkhart, Ind., the youngest of two children. Jessen was raised in Elkhart where her father was employed with the local railroad line. After graduating from Elkhart High School in 1937, Jessen attended Park College where she became a member of the Lucerne Literary Society and serving as its president, Theta Alpha Phi, Student Government Social Chair (194041), and Narva yearbook staff serving as assistant editor in 1941. After graduating from Park in 1941. Jessen attended Case Western Reserve University, earning a master's degree in nursing. At the outbreak of World War II, Jessen enlisted in the Women's Army Nurse Corps, serving as a first lieutenant at Kennedy General Hospital in Memphis, Tenn., and Medical Technicians School at Fort Sam Houston, San Antonio. After her discharge, Jessen moved to Washington, where she worked at the Pierce County Health Department. Around the same time, she married John Butler Murphey (1919-70) and the couple had four children. The family relocated to Mountain City, Tenn., where Jessen was an educator at Johnson County High School and Shady Valley Elementary School, as well as an instructor in the College of Nursing at East Tennessee State University. After her retirement, Jessen served as an active member of her community with Sigma Theta Tau, Munsey Service Group, Munsey Memorial United Methodist Church, Salvation Army, East Tennessee State University Retirees Association and Johnson City Monday Club. After her husband's death in 1970, Jessen married James Ferguson Nickels, Jr. (1923-2007) in Johnson City, Tenn., on Feb. 19, 1977. Jessen died on Oct. 15, 2013, in Oak Ridge, Tenn., and is buried at Mountain Home (Tenn.) National Cemetery.

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Anna Louise Stanhagen (September 16, 1921-June 8, 1994)

Stanhagen was born to Milton Garfield (1879-1949), a Spanish-American War and World War I veteran, and Carolyn Porter Jackson (1900-1997) in Marfa, Texas., the eldest of two children. Raised in El Paso, Texas, Stanhagen graduated from Austin High School in 1940 and was accepted to Park College, where she attended until Dec. 15, 1942, when she enlisted in the Women’s Army Air Corps at Fort Bliss, Texas. Aviation Cadet Stanhagen was discharged in 1945. Stanhagen returned to finish her degree, graduating in 1947 as Theta Alphi Phi president, Herr House president, Senior class secretary and treasurer in 1946, and Elaine Literary Society serving as secretary in 1947. While at Park, Stanhagen met Robert Daniel Picken (1921-2013), who also served in the Army Air Corps and graduated in 1947. The couple married on June 13, 1947, in El Paso and soon moved to Caledonia, Ill., where they took up farming and had two children. Stanhagen worked as a teacher and was an active member in several local organizations such as the North Suburban Women's Club, Willow Creek Presbyterian Church, and Willow Creek Mariners, all in Caledonia. Stanhagen died on June 8, 1994, and is buried in the Scottish Cemetery, Caledonia.

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Helen Elizabeth Adams (April 1, 1914-May 26, 2003)

Adams was born to Orin Jennings (1888-1980) and Otie Mae Frazier (1889-1971) in Kingston, Mo., the oldest of three children. Adams and her brothers were raised in Kingston, where their father was employed as city attorney. Adams attended and graduated from Kingston High School in 1933, attending Park College from then until her graduation in 1936 with a bachelor’s degree in social sciences. Adams was a skilled athlete, not only playing for the Aurora Literary Club, but becoming its president her senior year. Adams became an educator for several years until the attack on Pearl Harbor inspired her to enlist in the WAVES on June 14, 1943. Adams was honorably discharged on Oct. 10, 1945. Adams married Hugh David Welch (1901-56), a widower, in Hamilton, on July 22, 1947, becoming stepmother to his two sons. Adams taught school for 35 years, primarily in the Smithville (Mo.) School District until her retirement in 1979. Adams remained active in the Hamilton Federated Church and Order of the Eastern Star for the rest of her life. In her final years, Adams lived in the Missouri Veterans Home in Cameron, Mo., where she died on May 26, 2003. She is buried in Highland Cemetery, Hamilton.

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Thelma Jean Curl (August 2, 1920-Present)

Curl was born to Griffin Oscar (1887-1976) and Mary May Grubb (1893-1955) in Johnson, Ind., the third of six children. Raised on her parent's farm in Owensville, Ind., Curl graduated from Owensville High School in 1937, soon moving to Indianapolis, Ind., to work as a stenographer and bookkeeper for the next several years. In 1943, Curl enlisted in the WAVES, serving as a specialist (control tower operator) petty officer 2C (5th grade) until 1945. After her discharge in 1946, Curl attended Park College, where she became a member of the Aurora Literary Club (president in 1949), Zeta Kappa Epsilon, Future Teachers of America-- Mary Harrison Chapter, French Club, International Relations Club, Narva yearbook staff and YWCA (president in 1949), graduating in 1950. Curl was hired as an elementary teacher within the Kansas City, Kan., School District, remaining in that position until 1954, when she enrolled at the University of Kansas and earned a master's degree. In 1955, Curl began teaching at Wyandotte High School in Kansas City, Kan., remaining there until her retirement in the 1980s. Curl remained active in the Wyandotte County (Kan.) Historical Society, Delta Kappa Gamma Association, and Missouri American Association of University Women in between her travels overseas with Martha Jean Gray, ’50, retiring from social activities in the 2000s. Curl is currently residing in a retirement community and will be 101 years old in 2021.

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Virginia Luella Fleming (August 26, 1921-June 16, 1992)

Fleming was born to Walter Avery (1887-1960) and Sarah Walker (1890-1981) in St. Joseph, Mo., the youngest of three daughters. Before her 10th birthday, Fleming had lived in several areas within Platte County, Mo., with her farming parents, finally ending up in Parkville, Mo., by her teens. After graduating from what is now Park Hill High School in Kansas City, Mo., in 1939, Fleming attended Park College, where she was a member of the Lucerne Literary Club and Choir, graduating in 1942. Fleming enlisted in the WAVES on an unknown date and served for an undetermined amount of time. Fleming later lived in Nashville, Tenn., and Osceola, Ark., and married twice. Her profession is unknown, as are details of her later life. Fleming died on June 16, 1992, in St John, Mo. It is unknown where she is buried.

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Bonna Dee Forsberg (June 22, 1923-October 26, 1994)

Forsberg was born to Leo (1903-1972) and Rachel Schlaegel (1903-1998) in McPherson, Kan., the oldest of four children. Raised in Minneapolis, Kan., Forsberg attended high school in the North Ottawa County (Kan.) School District, graduating in 1942. Forsberg was accepted to Park College, where she attended for two years before enlisting in the WAVES on July 13, 1944. Forsberg was honorably discharged on July 6, 1946. Forsberg then attended the College of Emporia (now Emporia [Kans.] State University), graduating in 1949. Forsberg married Harry Lee Mussett (1926-85) sometime between 1945-1949 and they had one son. The Mussetts moved to Ponca City, Okla., in the late 1950s, where they remained until their respective deaths in 1985 and 1994. It is unknown where she is buried.

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Martha Jean Gray (August 6, 1919-March 25, 2005)

Gray was born to James Harvey (1881-1968) and Zella Roberts (1889-1975) in Davis Township, Mo., a twin and the youngest of three children. Raised in Davis on the family farm, Gray and her siblings worked as teenagers at the Soil Conservation Office in Lafayette County after graduation, nearing the start of World War II. In 1942, Gray enlisted in the WAVES, becoming an aviation machinist mate 2C (3rd grade). Her brother, Frank Roberts (1914-2000), also served in the Navy, and was wounded in action during the war. After her discharge, Gray attended Park College where she became a member of the Aurora Literary Club (president in 1950), basketball team, Women's Judicial Council, Future Teachers of America--Mary Harrison Chapter and Who's Who list of the senior class, graduating in 1950. Gray then attended Ohio State University, earning a master's degree in 1952 and immediately becoming a science teacher at Northeast Junior High School in Kansas City, Mo. Gray's tenure at Northeast lasted 30 years, culminating in her retirement in 1982. She spent time traveling with fellow alumna Thelma Jean Curl, ‘50. Gray died in Higginsville, Mo., on Mar. 25, 2005, and is buried in Higginsville City Cemetery.

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Mary Catherine Milligan (March 3, 1919-February 26, 2005)

Milligan was born to James Stuart (1888-1976) and Margaret Shera Wynn (1884-1930) in Indianapolis, the oldest of two children. After graduating from high school in 1938, Milligan attended Park College, becoming a member of the Lucerne Literary Club, Choir and Alpha Theta Phi, serving as its president in 1941.She graduated from Park with a bachelor's degree in home economics in 1941. Milligan enlisted in the WAVES on Feb. 21, 1943, serving as a lieutenant junior grade at the Naval Station Great Lakes in Great Lakes (Ill.) until 1945. While there, she met Charles Richard Locke (1918-95), marrying him on Oct. 15, 1944, in Indianapolis. The couple had three children. The family lived in Evanston, Ill., for several years, where Charles Locke was an educator. Milligan was an active member of the American Association of University Women and the Presbyterian Church for most of her life. Milligan died on Feb. 26, 2005, in Evanston; she is buried in Oak Hill Cemetery, Taylorville, Ill.

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Dorothy Enid Schneider (April 8, 1914-March 9, 2012)

Schneider was born to Henry Herman (1878-1947) and Annette Mae Ferbuson (1883-1973) in Crosby, Mo., the oldest of two children. Schneider was raised in Monroe, Mo., where her father operated a grocery store and served as a real estate manager. After moving to St. Joseph, Mo., in her teens, Schneider graduated from St. Joseph Junior College (now Missouri Western State University) then attended Park College, where she graduated in 1936 with a bachelor's degree in English and French. Schneider took a position at Boonville (Mo.) High School teaching English until 1941, when she accepted an appointment with the Postal Censorship Office at the outbreak of World War II. In Jan. of 1944, Schneider resigned and joined the WAVES, commissioning as ensign, and stationed at the Naval Intelligence Unit (Office of Naval Intelligence Agency) in New Orleans. It was there that she met John Aubrey Gardner (1913-46), whom she married in April 1945, living in Rochester, Minn. until his untimely death in November 1945. Schneider continued her education at the University of Alabama receiving a degree in Spanish (1947), and the University of California with a doctorate in Latin American literature (1961), all the while teaching Spanish at (what is) Wichita (Kan.) State University. Schneider married Harold Froning (1905-97) on Aug. 23, 1963, in Wichita. Schneider served with a number of organizations throughout her career, including the Kansas Modern Language Association, American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese, American Association of University Professors, American Association of University Women and the United Methodist Women. Schneider outlived her second husband, who died in 1997. She died on March 9, 2012, in Wichita and is buried in the Mission Chapel Mausoleum, Wichita.

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Elizabeth Ann Treeman (October 31, 1918-January 22, 2013)

Treeman was born to Ralph Waldo (1884-1954) and Irene McCune (1891-1985) in Perry, Okla., the oldest of four children. Treeman’s father was a pioneering banker and merchant, assisting in the founding of Farmers and Merchants Bank, which operated from 1900 to its insolvency during the Great Depression. Treeman attended Perry High School and graduated in 1937. She was then admitted to Park College, where she quickly became a central figure of the class of 1940, joining the Aurora Literary Club, English Club, French Club, Stylus Editing Team (assistant business manager in 1938 and editor in 1939), Scribbler Editing Team (business manager in 1938) and Junior Class president in 1939. Treeman graduated in 1940 and continued her education at Washington University in St. Louis, until her studies were soon interrupted by the outbreak of World War II. In February 1943, Treeman enlisted in the WAVES, commissioned as ensign, and assigned to duty at the Baltimore Naval Shipyard, run by the U.S. Naval Reserve. Treeman was discharged as a lieutenant in 1945 then returned to Perry to continue her studies at the University of Oklahoma. After graduation, Treeman accepted the position of associate editor for the Harvard University Press in Cambridge, Mass. There, she met Kees Willems (1926-1973), a Dutch graduate student. The couple married in 1953 and moved to Holland, where Treeman worked for American-based Abrams Publishing Company as an editor. After the couple separated in the 1970s, Treeman returned to the U. S. continuing to work for Abrams Publishing, until retiring in Perry. Treeman was an active member of the community, participating in the First Presbyterian Church, Cherokee Strip Museum (Oklahoma Historical Society) and Stagecoach Theater, all in Perry. Treeman continued to live in her hometown until her death on Jan. 22, 2013. She is buried in Grace Hill Cemetery, Perry.

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Eleanor Virginia Weld (August 11, 1916-August 24, 2012)

Weld was born to Harry Bushnell (1872-1959) and Mary Milber (1881-1969) in New York, N.Y., the oldest of two children. The Weld siblings were raised in Narberth, Pa., where their father worked as a manager for a clothing store. Weld's younger brother Willard Whitmore died of sarcoma in 1923 after suffering for several of his teenage years, leaving Weld an only child. After graduating from high school in 1936, Weld was accepted to Park College, becoming a member of the Lucerne Literary Club, French Club, Choir, Spanish Club, Sociology Club, and she was an all-around athlete, playing soccer, hockey, basketball, softball, volleyball and speedball. Weld graduated in 1939, then attended the University of Denver School of Librarianship, where she received a degree in 1940. She then worked in the Princeton University Theological Seminary until 1943. Weld enlisted in the WAVES on Sept. 21, 1943, serving as a lieutenant junior grade until Jan. 1, 1945. After her service, Weld returned to Princeton, working in the university library from 1947 to 1982, and retired in 1984. Weld continued to assist students at Burlington County College in Mount Laurel, N.J., and served actively in her church, the American Library Association, YWCA and other local organizations. A lifelong educator, Weld worked with young adults and students well into her 80s and remained unmarried. Weld died on August 24, 2012, in Princeton, N.J., at 96 years old.

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Shirley Anne Gresham (July 23, 1919-November 10, 2000)

Gresham was born to Grover Cleveland (1886-1976), local politician and post master, and Caroline Louise Ashby (1889-1980) in Parkville, Mo., the third of four children. Raised in an original East Street, Parkville home, Gresham graduated from what is now-Park Hill High School in Kansas City, Mo., in 1937, and attended Park College, where she was a member of the Calliopian Literary Club, Women's Athletic Association (president in 1941), basketball team and speedball team. After graduating in 1941, Gresham, like her older brother Wayne Wilson (1913-66, Park College Class of 1937) and younger brother Warren Ashby (1924-91), joined the service upon the outbreak of World War II. Gresham enlisted in the Marine Corps Women's Reserve in the spring of 1943, and by October, served as second lieutenant in Company A, First HQ Battalion, USMC Headquarters, in Washington, D.C. At the end of her tenure in 1945, then1st Lt. Gresham was stationed at Henderson Hall in Arlington, Va. After her discharge, Gresham joined the United Nations Recovery and Rehabilitation Administration as an administrator for an engineering firm and was sent to China until 1948. Upon her return to Parkville, Gresham became a managing director for several department stores in the area. Among her acquaintances in the Northland, she met Edwin Lawrence O'Brien (1911-83), a lecturer, Park College professor emeritus and statesman, who was sent to China in the 1950s with the National Agricultural Engineering Corporation. They married on June 22, 1958, in Kansas City, Mo. The couple had two children and raised their family in Parkville. Gresham continued to work as a personnel director for the remainder of her career, retiring in the 1980s. Gresham died on Nov. 10, 2000, in Parkville, and is buried in Walnut Grove Cemetery.

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