Submitted by Carol J. Bell, Niece.
Wheeling Hospital School of Nursing, 1943
U.S. Army Nurse Corps, World War II
Submitted by Carol J. Bell, Niece.
Laura Mae Miller was born August 2, 1922, in Triadelphia, West Virginia, the fourth daughter of Harry and Laura Miller. Her mother passed away when Laura Mae was only five years old. She was raised with three older sisters and a younger brother in the home of her father and maternal grandparents. She attended the local Ohio County schools and graduated from Triadelphia High School in 1940. Along the way, her first and middle names were combined into one name, Lauramae.
Shortly after graduation, she began nurses' training at Wheeling Hospital School of Nursing, where she lived next door in the student nurses' home. Lauramae received her R.N. in 1943 and worked as a private duty nurse. In June 1944, Congress passed legislation authorizing nurses full commissioned status in the Army of the United States with the same rights, benefits, and privileges as other commissioned officers.(1) Lauramae responded to the opportunity by joining the Army Nurse Corps just three months later at Fort Dix, New Jersey. She received training at Fort Knox, Kentucky, and was assigned to White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, home of The Greenbrier, which had been purchased in 1942 by the Army and transformed into the 2000-bed Ashford General Hospital, where 24,000 soldiers were treated throughout the course of WWII.
Looking back, Second Lieutenant Lauramae Miller’s Ashford experience was a time of young and carefree adventure. Because of Ashford’s former status as an opulent hotel, it was known as “a Shangri-La for sick and wounded soldiers.”(2) Lauramae lived with other nurses in a cottage on South Carolina Row, a short walk from the hospital. The cottages surrounding the hospital, many with fireplaces and all with spacious verandas, made pleasant living quarters. Her nursing centered primarily on paraplegic patients.
The most famous visiting VIP was General Dwight D. Eisenhower, who went to Ashford for medical checkups, rest, and relaxation. On one occasion when he stayed in the VIP Suite on the first floor of the hospital, Lauramae spent the week providing nursing care, giving back rubs, bringing breakfast, and doing whatever was necessary. She said that “Ike” was nice to her. General Jonathan Wainwright, “The Hero of Bataan,” who was a Japanese captive for three years, became a patient at Ashford, and Lauramae helped him in his recovery.
Near the hospital was Camp Ashford, a 165-acre stockade for enemy prisoners of war. Lauramae saw the German POWs working on the hospital grounds and in the kitchen. The Germans sang as they marched to work. Word of the singing prisoners spread, and before long it was not unusual to see a dozen cars parked by the road with Americans waiting to see the prisoners and to hear them sing.(3) Lauramae said that some of the POWs were sad on V-E Day because they did not want to return to Germany.
The best part of Lauramae’s adventure was meeting her husband-to-be, Corporal T5 David L. Powers of Hannibal, Missouri. On their first date, they attended midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. Lauramae was temporarily detailed for six weeks to Newton D. Baker Hospital, which is now part of the Veterans Medical Center in Martinsburg, West Virginia. A few family members from Wheeling drove to Martinsburg to see her and to meet David for the first time. However, there was a mix-up, and the meeting never took place. Dating enlisted men was a “no-no” for the nurses, but Lauramae said that her relationship with David was not a secret. They married on April 2, 1946, at Chaplain Hillman’s home in the nearby town of Lewisburg. Lauramae was stationed at Ashford till it closed in June 1946. She was honorably discharged at Fort Dix, the same place she entered the Army. She had wanted to go overseas but never got the chance. The Greenbrier opened to the general public as a hotel again in 1948, and it remains one of the world’s most luxurious resorts.
After WWII, Lauramae and David moved to California. They had two daughters, Joyce and Janice, and five grandchildren. Lauramae continued her nursing career in the Emergency Rooms of St. Mary’s Hospital, Long Beach, and Lakewood Regional Medical Center, Lakewood. After her retirement at 70 years of age, she enjoyed several long visits with family in West Virginia. Lauramae suffered almost a year with lung cancer. She passed away on April 26, 2003, and made her final journey home to West Virginia to be buried beside her beloved husband in Wheeling.
**Most of the details are based on a personal interview by Carol J. Bell, niece, in July 2002.
1. Public Law 350, 78th Congress, 2nd Session, approved 22 June 1944.
2. Keefer, Louis E., Shangri-La for Wounded Soldiers, COTU Publishing, Reston, VA, 1995.
3. http://www.collasius.de/collasius-org/zeitzeugen/04-html/brown-afrika.htm. Accessed February 27, 2004.
Wheeling News-Register - May 4, 2003
LAURAMAE MILLER POWERS, 80, formerly of Wheeling, WV, died Saturday, April 26, 2003, in Lakewood, Calif. She was born August 2, 1922, in Triadelphia, WV, a daughter of the late Harry A. and Laura May Weishar Miller. She was a 1940 graduate of Triadelphia High School and a 1943 graduate of Wheeling Hospital School of Nursing; a retired RN having worked at St. Mary’s Hospital, Long Beach, Calif, and Lakewood Regional Medical Center, Lakewood; an Army Nurse, Second Lieutenant during World War II; and a former member of the First English Lutheran Church, Wheeling. In addition to her parents, she was preceded in death by her husband, David L. Powers in 1979, whom she married April 2, 1946, her grandparents, Joseph John and Emma Weishar; a brother, Harry A. Miller Jr., a sister, Helen Klug; two grandchildren, Michael David and Joshua Andrew Copeland; a great-grandchild, Jonathan Christopher Angdahl; and an aunt and uncle, Clerk of Ohio County Court Raymond Falland and his wife Bertha. Surviving are two daughters, Joyce Copeland and her husband, Randy, of Lakewood, Calif. and Janice Towner of Garden Grove, Calif.; two sisters, Doris Cooper of Kansas and Elizabeth Bell of Wheeling; three grandchildren, Aaron Towner, Sandi Lee Angdahl and Jeremy Daniel Copeland; four great-grandchildren, Jeff, Jenni, Curt and Chris Angdahl; and several nieces and nephews. Friends received 2-4 and 6-8 p.m. Monday at Altmeyer Funeral Home, 154 Kruger Street, Elm Grove, Wheeling where services will be held at 10 a.m. Tuesday, May 6, 2003 with Pastor David Twedt officiating. Military graveside services will be held in Greenwood Cemetery, Wheeling with her grandson Jeremy Copeland, Air Force (ROTC) participating in graveside services.