“You only turn 100 once.” WWII nurse honored with gala birthday bash

Wednesday, May 22, 2019 - 17:37

The guest of honor was resplendent in a bright red dress and a pair black flats she picked out several days before the party.

As she sat surrounded by piles of birthday cards sent from around the world — and fresh off a phone call from U.S. congressman — the smile on Charlotte Schwid’s face Wednesday was matched in brightness only by the glints of sunlight pouring in through the windows of the Eagle River VFW and bouncing off the “Birthday Girl” tiara she wore atop her flowing locks of silver hair.

“I’ve met so many people today,” she said between hugs from those who came to honor Schwid’s long and remarkable life.

The Wednesday afternoon 100th birthday gala was the work of Pheng Scott, an Eagle River woman who arranged a massive birthday card campaign for Schwid, a former Army nurse who served in England during the Allied invasion of Europe in World War II. When Scott heard of Schwid’s milestone birthday several months ago, the Air Force veteran sprang into action.

“You only turn 100 once,” Scott said.

[RELATAED: WWII nurse from Eagle River will turn 100 on Wednesday — and she’s still looking forward to the Bear Paw Parade]

Scott organized a letter-writing campaign that resulted in hundreds of cards from around the world arriving in Eagle River. Scott said cards arrived for Schwid from all 50 U.S. states and numerous foreign countries — a feat she said made her feel proud not for her own work but because of the joy the party brought Schwid.

“I’m just glad to be able to put a smile on her face,” she said.

Schwid moved to Eagle River 10 years ago after suffering a stroke after spending most of her postwar life in Milwaukee, where her career included a stint as the first nurse hired at the city’s new County Stadium in 1953. Although she’s slowed by the stroke, she still enjoys watching baseball and makes a point to greet each Honor Flight that returns to Alaska each year after flying vets to visit the national WWII memorial.

According to the National WWII Museum, fewer than 500,000 Americans who served in the war were alive as of 2018. Scott said she thought it was important to honor a veteran like Schwid, whose work and sacrifice more than seven decades ago still has deep meaning for those who serve.

“They’re the ones who led the way for us,” she said.

In addition to the cards, cakes and party, Schwid has received letters of congratulations from the likes of U.S. Rep. Don Young and on Wednesday she received a call from Virginia congressman Morgan Griffith, who represents the district where Schwid grew up.

As she surveyed the crowd Wednesday, Schwid couldn’t help but smile and said she was grateful for the many people who came out to celebrate with her on her big day.

“Thank you,” she said.

No ma’am, thank you.

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