April 14, 2017
My wife, Beth Tjon Wosick, had two great-aunts who served as American Red Cross nurses with the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) during World War I at Base Hospital II, Nantes, France. At war's end they returned to Chicago where they continued their nursing careers with the U.S. Post Office in downtown Chicago.
Nurses Lillian and Anna Olson were originally from Jewel, Iowa, and received their nursing training at the Augustana Hospital in Chicago.
An AEF Hospital patient, James P. McGrillen, penned a poem to Nurse Lilly titled “My Nurse” that captures the admiration many AEF patients had for their attending nurses. We did a little research on McGrillen and did find he was considered to be an accomplished poet.
It is interesting to note that Beth’s mother also followed the nursing profession and in 1944 enrolled in a Red Cross Cadet Program in Grand Forks, N.D., to serve soldiers from World War II. However, the war ended before she had the opportunity to serve in that capacity.
We welcome the opportunity to share this poem with the American Legion Magazine readership during 2017, the 100th anniversary of America’s involvement in WWI.
Frederick D. Wosick
Member of Post 41, Grafton, N.D.
By James P. McGrillen
You can sing of your ”Poilus” and “Tommies.”
Your ”Jocks” and your “Yankees” as well.
They ‘or borne the hunt -
On many a front,
Where the fighting was hotter than hell.
They are heros, there’s none will deny it,
Each one just as good as the rest.
But there’s one that I know –
It’s my purpose to show.
That to my mind at least she’s the best.
With a smile that’s as pure as the rainbow.
Or the dawn of a glad summer day.
She’ll steal your poor heart -
With cunningless art.
And hold it forever and aye.
It’s of you Nurse I sing, had you guessed it?
Of you that I sing and no other.
For you carry me back –
Along memories track.
To my first love, my best love, my mother.
To Nurse Lillian Olson with my compliments.
James P. McGrillen
Base Hospital II, Natntes, France 9-24-18
Left: Lillian Olson
10-8-1886 Hamilton County, Jewel Iowa - April 1971
Educated: Nurse Training Augustana Hospital, Chicago, Ill
Worked: Augustana Hospital, Chicago, Ill
1916-1918 American Red Cross Nurse Base Hospital #11, France
1918 City of Chicago Post Office Nurse for Employees
Anna Sophia Olson
Born 11-14-1884 Died 7-20-1965
Education, Worked: same as Lillian
The sisters never married. They worked together and retired to live in Orlando until their deaths.