Elsie F. Perch [1920-2014]; Army nurse worked on front in Italy in WWII

Elsie Perch.
Elsie Perch.

Elsie F. Perch, a retired nursing instructor who, as an Army nurse during World War II, cared for the wounded from a field hospital close to the front line in Italy, died Feb. 19 in her Rossford home. She was 93.

She had bladder cancer, her son Robert said.

Mrs. Perch and her husband, Daniel, also a World War II veteran, settled in Rossford. In the mid-1960s, the former Mercy Hospital asked her to teach obstetrics nursing, she told Andrew “Bud” Fisher for the Library of Congress’ Veterans History Project. She remained for 19 years, retiring in 1984 from the Mercy School of Nursing.

She often shared her recollections as a member of the Army Nurse Corps in talks before church, school, and veterans’ groups. She enlisted Dec. 7, 1942, and five months later was sent to North Africa, where Allied forces were battling the Germans and Italians.

Mrs. Perch received orders in February, 1944, to the 33rd Field Hospital at Anzio Beachhead in Italy, where U.S. troops had landed by sea to cut off German forces and, it was hoped, hasten the war’s end in Italy. Six nurses had been killed there.

Anzio was a “front without a back,” she told The Blade in 2008, with the beachhead 18 miles long and at most nine miles deep, and U.S. forces surrounded by Germans.

“We were under fire, air raids, shells, and so forth most of the time,” she said in 2008. A 2½-inch piece of shrapnel tore a hole through her tent and landed three feet from her head as she slept. She kept the piece of jagged metal as part of her scrapbooks of photos, medals, ribbons, and other mementos of her service.

She dealt with dozens of seriously wounded patients at once. She saw hundreds die, she told The Blade, yet realized that the field hospital allowed others to survive. And she shared a bond with her comrades.

“You felt like everybody was under the same circumstances that you were,” she recalled. “We were closer to those people than any other group in our life, because we shared the same experiences.”

She attended reunions for years and was a supporter of the World War II and women in military service memorials.

She was born June 15, 1920, to Lola and Ashby “Lank” Getz. She was salutatorian at age 16 of her high school class in LaFontaine, Ind.

She came to Toledo and was a 1940 graduate of the former Robinwood Hospital School of Nursing.

Mrs. Perch had a bachelor of science degree in nursing from the former Mary Manse College and a master of education degree from the University of Toledo.

She was a member of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Toledo.

Mrs. Perch and her husband, Daniel, were married Jan. 30, 1945. He died Sept. 11, 2006.

Surviving are her sons, Daniel and Robert; daughters, Peggy Jaegly, Barbara Thomas, and Susan Stancik; brother, Ashby Getz; 13 grandchildren, and eight great-grandchildren.

Visitation will be from 2-8 p.m. today in the Sujkowski Funeral Home of Rossford, with a service by American Legion Toledo Post 335 at 7 p.m. Funeral services will begin at 11 a.m. Friday in the mortuary.

The family suggests tributes to a church or charity of the donor’s choice. 

Contact Mark Zaborney at: mzaborney@theblade.com or 419-724-6182.