Durango resident Elizabeth Ann Vandal died Monday, March 25, 2013, at Sunshine Gardens West. She was 97.
Known as “Betty,” she was born to John and Mary Dill on Jan. 25, 1916, in Durango. Her parents had immigrated to the United States from Slovakia in 1900. Mrs. Vandal was one of seven children.
After attending Park Elementary School, she graduated from Durango High School in 1933. Mrs. Vandal studied nursing at Mercy Hospital in Durango, graduating in 1936. After working for two years as a surgical nurse, she became the nurse for all the schools in the Durango area.
Two months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, she enlisted in the Army Nurse Corps, which took her into the heart of the war in Europe during World War II. Attached to Gen. George S. Patton’s 3rd Army, Mrs. Vandal was a member of the Omaha Beach Field Hospital during the Battle of the Bulge and stayed with the unit until it almost reached Berlin, when she was sent back to England and, eventually, the United States.
She remembered being in a field hospital in Bastogne, France, when German forces encircled the city, and all she and her fellow nurses could do was administer morphine tablets to keep the wounded comfortable.
After the war, Mrs. Vandal returned to Durango for a few months, but decided it was too cold here and went to Hawaii because a friend told her it was always warm there.
In Hawaii, Mrs. Vandal continued to serve in the Army Reserves. At the end of her 19 years of military service, she had achieved the rank of major.
Her first job as a nurse in Hawaii was at a sugar plantation on Maui until her living quarters were swept away by a tidal wave. She went on to work in the orthopedic service at Shriner’s Children’s Hospital in Honolulu for five years and later practiced industrial nursing in a clinic.
On Sept. 18, 1948, she married Louis Vandal in Honolulu. They continued living in Hawaii until their retirement. All told, she was in Hawaii for 26 years.
The Vandals moved to Calimesa, Calif., where Mrs. Vandal decided to go back to work for a Kaiser Clinic. She also delivered Meals on Wheels and enjoyed working in her garden, which she called her “pride and joy.”
After her eyesight began failing, Mrs. Vandal moved back to Durango more than 15 years ago, where her nephew and his wife, V.J. and Maxine “Macky” Headrick, helped take care of her. She moved into Sunshine Gardens the month after it opened.
Mrs. Vandal was preceded in death by her husband of 28 years, Louis Vandal, in December 1976.
She is survived by four nephews and numerous great-nieces and great-nephews.
No services are planned. Cremation will occur, and her ashes will be buried next to her husband’s in Calimesa in April.