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Mary Ann ‘Mickey’ Petrick, a World War II combat nurse, dies

Folded flag resting on a headstone. (MaxPixel/Released/TNS)

Mary Ann “Mickey” Petrick, a World War II combat nurse who cared for the wounded at the Battle of the Bulge and later found joy caring for children as a parochial school nurse, died April 30 from a stroke at her son’s home in Henniker, New Hampshire.

The former longtime Rosedale resident, who later moved to the Charlestown Retirement Community in Catonsville, was 97.

The former Mary Ann Michelitch, the daughter of immigrant parents from Slovenia, was born in Mabie, West Virginia, and raised in Pierce, West Virginia, where her father, John Michelitch, was a coal miner and her mother, Mary Znidersic Michelitch, was a homemaker.

After graduating from Thomas High School in Tucker County, West Viginia, Mrs. Petrick earned her nursing degree in 1944 from the University of Maryland School of Nursing and immediately enlisted in the Army with Cora V. “Betty” Webb and Marianne “Mim” Gillelan, nursing school classmates and best friends.

“We used to go to the Red Cross and donate blood. That was our big day out. They’d give us coffee and doughnuts,” Mrs. Petrick told The Baltimore Sun in a 2017 interview for Mrs. Webb’s obituary.

Mrs. Petrick recalled that the three were walking by a recruiting station when a recruiting poster showing an “Army nurse wearing a beautiful dress” caught the young women’s attention.

“This man came out and said, ‘Why not join up and join the war effort?’ That was his pitch. … We had no jobs and said, ‘Why not? Let’s do it’ ” Mrs. Petrick said. “We then said to the guy, ‘If you let us stay together, then we’ll do it. We’ll join the Army.’ ”

The three new recruits went to Hutzler’s department store to get “outfitted,” she said.

“They asked for our military serial numbers, and we said, ‘We just joined 15 minutes ago!’ ” she said with a laugh.

The three women completed training at Fort Meade and later at Camp Lee in Virginia, and then joined the 164th General Hospital at Camp Grant in Rockford, Illinois.

On Sept. 12, 1944, the hospital unit embarked from New York aboard the Cunard Liner RMS Scythia and landed 12 days later in Cherbourg, France. Army regulations required that doctors and nurses wear Class A uniforms for their midnight disembarkation from the ship.

“Our Class A uniform included skirts. You can imagine us climbing over a ship into those barges with skirts and helmets,” Mrs. Petrick explained.

They traveled by Army transport to the Valognes staging area, where they remained until early October, when they established a 1,200-bed hospital at La Haye-du-Puits in northwestern Normandy, 30 miles from Cherbourg.

“We walked into a dismal scene,” Mrs. Webb told The Star-Democrat of Easton in a 1994 interview. “There was a lot of destruction everywhere. You can’t appreciate the full impact unless you were there.”

Three months later, in December 1944, Mrs. Petrick, an operating room nurse, and her two friends were sent to a field hospital during the Battle of the Bulge, where they were stationed until March 1945.

“The three us were loaned to the hospital at the Bulge. It was horrible and scary, and it was the first time we were told we might lose the war,” Mrs. Petrick told The Sun. “It put fear into us. I’ve tried to erase from my mind what I saw and what happened there.”

“She just never talked about it,” said a daughter, Mary Michel Pratka of Hamilton.

After completing her tour of duty in the European theater, and a brief stay in Manila during the Pacific campaign, she returned to the U.S. and was stationed at the Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, which had been renamed Ashford General Hospital during the war.

Mrs. Petrick ended her military career at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, from which she was discharged in 1951 from the Army Nurse Corps with the rank of captain.

While at Walter Reed, she met and fell in love with Edward Joseph Petrick, a former Army Air Force 53rd Fighter Squadron staff sergeant, whom she married in 1948. Mr. Petrick, who later became an attorney, died in 1998.

She later worked as a nurse for Dr. John Cletus Baier Sr., who maintained a family practice in Essex, and for two decades until retiring in the 1980s was the school nurse at St. Clement Mary Hofbauer parochial school in Rosedale, where she enjoyed caring for the children.

She was also a communicant of St. Mary Clement Hofbauer Roman Catholic Church.

Mrs. Petrick, who moved to New Hampshire in 2018, enjoyed playing tennis in her earlier years and liked to spend time with her family and grandchildren.

She and her husband will be inurned at Arlington National Cemetery at a future date.

In addition to her daughter, Mrs. Petrick is survived by two sons, Edward “Joe” Petrick Jr. of Henniker and William Ray Petrick of Brooklyn, New York; another daughter, Ann Marie Petrick of Washington; three brothers, Herman John Michelitch and Robert Andrew Michelitch, both of Sterling, Virginia, and Harry Howard Michelitch of Virginia; seven grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.


© 2020 The Baltimore Sun