Navy's 1st female admiral, an Ohio native, dies at age 98 - News, Weather, Sports, Toledo, OH

Navy's 1st female admiral, an Ohio native, dies at age 98

(Source: AP) (Source: AP)

The Navy's first female admiral died at her home in Florida on July 21 at the age of 98.

Rear Admiral Alene Duerk made history and broke barriers by being the first woman to reach the title.

She grew up in Defiance, Ohio, and graduated nursing school at Toledo Hospital in 1941.

Soon after she graduated, the United States entered World War II.

She then enlisted in the Navy Nurse Corps, sending her to Portsmouth, Virginia, and then Bethesda, Maryland.

It was in Bethesda where Duerk saw a posting on a bulletin board. It was looking for nurses to help out with five new hospital ships.

In 1945, she boarded the Benevolence and took off first to the Marshall Islands, and then Japan.

While the ship was on its way, the atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. 

They began to treat troops who had been U.S. prisoners of war. 

"The time I was aboard the hospital ship and we took the prisoners of war, that was something I will never forget," Duerk told the Library of Congress' Veterans History Project. "That was the most exciting experience of my whole career."

In 1946, she was released from active service.

Duerk earned a bachelor's degree at what is now Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.

She then returned to active duty in 1951.

She found herself back in Portsmouth as a nursing instructor at Naval Hospital Corps School.

Duerk's career took off running.

In 1970, she was appointed director of the Navy Nurse Corps and expanded the Navy's areas of nursing into pediatrics, anesthesia, obstetrics and gynecology, and ambulatory care.

It was in 1972 that President Nixon sent his approval for Duerk to become the first female rear admiral.

Three years later, Duerk retired. But she was a strong voice for Navy nursing for years more.

Copyright 2018 WTOL. All rights reserved.

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