Navy’s first female admirer Alene Duerk dies at 98.
The news of her death was made public by the Naval History and Heritage Command, which preserves and promotes Navy history.
Admiral Duerx died on July 21, at her residence in Lake Mary, Fla.
“I didn’t go into the Navy for a lifetime, I went in for six months,” Alene B. Duerk told an interviewer in 2016, when she was 96. “But I had an amazing career.”
Alene Bertha Duerk was born on March 29, 1920, in Defiance, Ohio, to Albert and Emma Duerk. Her father, who had health problems related to his service in World War I, became ill enough when Alene was a young girl that nurses came to their house frequently.
“I believe those nurses were my first introduction to nursing,” Admiral Duerk said in an interview for “Registered Nurse to Rear Admiral: A First for Navy Women,” a 2003 book about her written by Estelle McDoniel.
Her father died when she was 4, leaving her mother to raise her and her younger sister, Evelyn. After graduating from high school in 1938, Alene entered the Toledo Hospital School of Nursing in Ohio. She graduated in 1941, becoming a registered nurse at the hospital and then the staff nurse at a Toledo department store, providing care to its employees.
The United States entered World War II soon after she graduated from nursing school, and nurses were suddenly in high demand. She received regular recruiting pitches from the American Red Cross, and she enlisted in the Navy Nurse Corps in 1943.
She was assigned to the naval hospital in Portsmouth, Va., then to the one in Bethesda, Md. On the bulletin board there she read a notice that the Navy had completed five new hospital ships and was seeking nurses for them. In 1945 she boarded one of them, the Benevolence, bound for the Marshall Islands and then Japan.