HONORING AMERICA’S SERVICE PEOPLE
November 11th is Veterans Day. It marks the end of Word War I. It was originally called Armistice Day. The “Great War to End All Wars”, as World War One was called, ended when fighting ceased at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918.
The “Treaty of Versailles”, which officially ended the war between Germany and the Allies, was not signed until June 28, 1919. Later that year President Wilson declared November 11th as Armistice Day. In 1954 President Eisenhower signed a bill changing the name to Veterans Day.
At the Glenwood Area Historical Society meeting on Sunday the Society honored a woman from Glenwood City who was the only woman from Wisconsin to die in World War II as the results of hostile action. That person was Ellen Ainsworth, who was a nurse serving with the Fifth Army at Anzio, Italy. She died on February 14, 1944 as the result of injuries from a piece of shrapnel that had pierced her chest four days earlier.
The story related at the local Historical Society meeting was from Sally Rasmussen Berkholder. Sally is the daughter of the late Betty and Chuck Rasmussen of Glenwood City. Berkholder related that she could not sleep one night, made herself a cup of tea and went to her computer and came upon the CBS News web site and notice a spot where CBS New was asking for readers to nominate a hero for a Veterans Day story.
She entered some information about Ainsworth and sent it in on that web site. A few days later she returned home from running errands and found a note that her husband had left for her stating: “CBS News called, What did you do now?” She returned the call to CBS and found out that her suggestion for a story about Ainsworth was one of five that caught the eye of that news organization.
Berkholder related that Ainsworth had signed a yearbook that was Chuck Rasmussen’s. Ainsworth had been a babysitter for the Rasmussen family and she wrote: “When you make the football team I’m going to be in the front row cheering you on.”
Ainsworth never made it home to see that football game. She is remembered by most Glenwood City residents and the local American Legion Post bears her name plus a unit of the Veterans Home at King, Wisconsin is named in her honor as is a room at the Pentagon and a Veterans facility in upstate New York also honors Ainsworth.
Also the local Society was able to purchase a paving stone at the new high school football field to commemorate her military service. Society President Joan Ludtke noted at the meeting Sunday that funds came from donations and the Downing Legion Post to purchase the stone.
I would urge everyone to go to the CBS News site at www.cbsnews.com to read the entire store about Ainsworth. I also would call your attention to a book called, “A Half Acre of Hell” written by Avis D. Schorer, who also was a nurse at Anzio and a friend of Ellen.
Schorer wrote: “Ellen Ainsworth was a free spirit from Wisconsin. We would soon know ‘On Wisconsin’ better than our own state song. Ellen loved to sing and started a songfest at every opportunity. Ellen was especially eager for overseas duty. She was friendly and outgoing and liked to shock those around her. Ellen was born when her only brother and sister were teenagers. She loved her independence. We soon became good friends.”
I re-read the account of Schorer’s about Ellen being injured and her death. I got choked up and tears came to my eyes. I did not know Ellen, but knew her sister and father. Her sister Lyda attended the naming ceremonies at New York and at the Pentagon for Ellen and was very proud of her younger sister. Lyda passed away earlier this year at the age of 103.
I hunted ducks with her father, Guy, and served on the local fire department and city council with him. I can remember that he talked about Ellen only once and it was very short and I did not bring up the subject to him again.
Thanks for reading.