TOPEKA (KSNT) – Serving through the largest and deadliest war in history, Aurelia Escher only had one thought – lend a helping hand to those in need.
“I was taking nurses training in Denver,” Escher said. “They came in to get recruits because the war was going on very furiously, and they needed nurses and doctors. Some of us decided to go help the boys over there.”
Being overseas in France during WWII, Escher got medical attention to those that desperately needed it. She remembers holding the cigarettes of injured soldiers that otherwise wouldn’t be able to smoke.
“You wouldn’t believe what it’s like really,” Escher said. “You’d have to be there to know what those poor boys suffered. Their morale was bad, why wouldn’t it be they were 17, 18, 19-year-olds with their arms off and legs off. It was a sadness that you if you weren’t there could never experience it. You’d have to see it to believe it.”
For Escher, answering the call of duty was a time of great sadness and great thanksgiving, as she and other nurses like her were making the difference for young soldiers.
“They were so grateful to us you’ll never know,” Escher said. “If you have the arms and legs off or head injuries, that’s a time when you really know that people are kind and good to you. It makes me sad still when I think about it.”
She remembers the indescribable feeling of celebration when WWII ended.
“It was a blessing a thousand fold!” Escher said. “Everyone was so happy you know.”
Coming together as a country and helping her fellow man in the army meant a lot to Escher.
“I was so happy to have been there,” Escher said. “All the personnel from little to highest, we were all together.”
The 100-year-old nurse has some parting advice that’s led her to a life well lived.
“I just am from the old school,” Escher said. “My thoughts to anyone, do your best to mankind. Be kind, do your darndest. If a person is having a bad time one way or the other a sickness he has or something, just go there and try and cheer him up. Be kind to him or to anyone.”
Escher’s values of compassion and kindness are as relevant today as they were in 1944. She’ll be celebrating her 101st birthday this November.