When Lt. Col. (Ret.) Margaret A. Hollinger was serving as an Army nurse during World War II, she volunteered to tend to one of Gen. George Patton’s soldiers on the battlefield and ended up, lost behind enemy lines.
More than 60 years later, when her family asked her how she made it back to her field hospital, she sat up straight in her wheelchair, got a spark in her eye and looked straight at her nephew-in-law.
That’s classified, she told him.
“There were three things that were important to Margaret,” said her niece, Patty Hollinger Conrard. “Her family, her faith and the military.”
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Lt. Col. Hollinger died of natural causes Jan. 17 in a Seattle nursing home. She was 102.
Lt. Col. Hollinger was born in 1910 to Austro-Hungarian immigrants in Gladstone, N.D., a tiny railroad town that did not have electricity until the 1930s. The oldest of 10 children, she had to drop out of school for a time to help her family during the Depression, but graduated from Gladstone High School in 1931.
The next day she left for Bismarck, where a local family encouraged her to become a nurse. Wanting to earn a living — nurses at the time typically worked for just room and board — Lt. Col. Hollinger joined the Army Nurse Corps.
Serving as a member of the 120th Evacuation Field Hospital, which followed Gen. Patton’s troops across Europe, Lt. Col. Hollinger found herself on the front lines of World War II. She tended to survivors of Buchenwald concentration camp, and also helped wounded German soldiers, required by the Geneva Convention.
Conrard remembered Lt. Col. Hollinger’s nursing philosophy: “In the hospital they were a patient and no different from any other patient,” her niece said.
After the war, Lt. Col. Hollinger received a bachelor’s degree in nursing from the University of Washington in 1950 and later a master’s degree in hospital administration from Baylor University in Texas.
After serving in the Korean War, Lt. Col. Hollinger in the 1960s became one of the first female hospital administrators. She later worked for the Washington state Department of Social and Health Services.
Fiercely independent, Lt. Col. Hollinger never married despite being engaged five times. She lived by herself in an apartment near Joint Base Lewis-McChord until she was 97, visiting her family often.
She liked being near the military community, Conrard said, and spent her days watching CNN and sports — the Seahawks, the UW Huskies and the Baylor Bears.
She spent the final years of her life at the Kline-Galland Home in Seattle.
She and her niece talked often.
“She was never somebody who, when you talk to them, you think ‘Oh, she’s an old lady,’ ” Conrard said. “She had a young spirit.”
Lt. Col. Hollinger is survived by her siblings Arlene Brackebush, LaVerne Cornish and Anton Hollinger of Montana, as well as nieces and nephews.
A viewing will be held from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday at Sunset Hills Funeral Home in Bellevue. Services will be held afterward, with interment later at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.
Sarah Freishtat: 206-464-2373 or firstname.lastname@example.org