November 8, 2009:On Friday, November 6 I had the privilege to attend a West Virginia Humanities Program at the Bice-Ferguson Memorial Museum in Shinnston. The program was Becky Park portraying Colonel Ruby Bradley in the year 1958 shortly after she received her “Bird” Colonel rank. She was Colonel Bradley and it was 1958.
She spoke briefly about being born in 1907 and growing up in the country outside Spencer, West Virginia and loving school so much that after high school she saved and went to Glenville Normal School (now Glenville College) and then taught school for a couple years in the school she had attended. She then went to nursing school and in 1934 joined the Army and worked with her sister at Walter Reed Hospital. Longing for adventure, she transferred to the Philippines. Then she told of the bombing of her location in the Philippines, hiding from the Japanese, surrendering, and the Santo Tomas Internment Camp where she was a captive for over 3 years. You could feel the emotion of what she lived through and the liberation when it came. Then there was Korea. She said in the question period – as Col. Bradley – that she was in an Evacuation Hospital Unit for about 5 months and then became the Chief Nurse of the Korean Theater. When asked about after the Korean War ended, she said she was about to be stationed in Europe and was looking forward to seeing Farnce, Germany, and Italy.
Returning to Becky Park, we were told Col. Bradley retired from the Army in 1963 and returned to Spencer. In 2002, her caregiver was unable to continue and Col. Bradley moved to Kentucky to be cared for by a nephew and died shortly thereafter. She was buried with full miltary honors at Arlington National Cemetery. Becky Park had a few copies of the book We Band of Angels by Elizabeth M. Norman and I am now reading the story of the American nurses who were trapped on Bataan. All I can say is – it is gripping reading.
If you ever have an opportunity to attend one of the Humanities Programs go. It will be time well-spent. I cannot wait to find out who will be coming to Shinnston in 2010!