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Col. Florence E. Judd| 1913-2008

World War II veteran Army nurse dies at 94

Florence Judd once served  President Eisenhower as his nurse.

Florence Judd once served President Eisenhower as his nurse.

When Col. Florence E. Judd died, she left behind a house full of mementos of her colorful life and her career as an Army nurse.

There were pictures of her with a shovel, breaking ground for a field hospital. A clipping from a 50-year-old copy of Newsweek that mentioned her. The ashes of her beloved poodle Sabrina, who died 12 years ago and is now buried alongside her.

But perhaps her favorite keepsake was an engraved silver cigarette case, a gift from a former patient who became a cherished friend.

"To Florence Judd, in appreciation. DDE," the inscription read.

The initials stood for Dwight David Eisenhower.

Col. Judd, who was 94 when she died at home March 15 from a lung condition, had been one of three nurses assigned to care for Eisenhower during his presidency when he was in Walter Reed Army Medical Center suffering from an inflamed intestine. He thanked her by name in a Newsweek article and invited her to dinner at the White House several times.

Her friendship with a president was just one highlight of her military career, which started in the early days of World War II.

"She graduated from nursing school, and one of her jobs was to help the doctor conduct physicals on the young men who were going into the service," said her friend and caregiver, Alana Buhrkuhl. "She was working so hard that she decided she might as well enlist to get the benefits."

It was just a practical career step. But soon she found herself fiercely devoted to caring for the soldiers.

She spent much of World War II in Europe. Among her duties was crossing the Atlantic repeatedly in ocean liners that had been converted into troop transport ships.

"She would go over there with the men, and then she would come back with a ship full of wounded soldiers," Buhrkuhl said.

When she rose through the ranks, during World War II and the Korean War, she would travel from one military hospital to another, making sure soldiers were receiving proper care.

"She slept on Army cots, she slept on the ground near the front lines," Buhrkuhl said. "She said it was the least she could do for the men who were sacrificing so much."

In those days, women in the Army weren't allowed to marry. By the time the rules changed, Col. Judd was happily devoted to her career and not especially interested in marriage.

"She chose the Army over marriage," Buhrkuhl said. "And what a great thing for our country that she did."

Col. Judd retired in 1968 as one of the Army's highest-ranking women. Had she stayed a little longer, she was in line for a promotion that would have made her only the second woman general in the Army at that time.

She spent most of her retirement in Fort Myers, then moved to Sun City Center 12 years ago.

She loved the Florida lifestyle, especially fishing, boating and working in her garden. She remained energetic and enjoyed her life even when she was in her 90s and her health was fading.

"Gen. [Douglas] MacArthur told her that you're never old until the snow of despair and hopelessness settles in on you," Buhrkuhl said. "And I can tell you that the day she died, she was not an old woman."

Col. Judd is survived by her brother Fred.

World War II veteran Army nurse dies at 94 03/27/08 [Last modified: Monday, March 31, 2008 11:21am]

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