Former World War II Nurse Approaches 95th Birthday
Rose (Sue) Crookshanks will turn 95 on Sept. 29. Crookshanks, of Paden City, grew up in Ashland, New Hampshire and was the second oldest of 10 children who grew up primarily on a dairy farm. She has shared childhood memories with her children of her riding in a wagon, delivering milk with her father. The family had a very busy life with the dairy farm and 10 children, so Rose took on a lot of the responsibilities of taking care of her younger siblings at an early age. In her adult years, Rose told her children she couldn’t go out with her friends to basketball games or any of the extracurricular activities until her siblings were bathed and put to bed. This is believed to have played a role in Rose later becoming a pediatric nurse. After she graduated high school and went to pediatric nursing school at Boston Children’s Hospital, Rose enlisted in the military and was in Germany for almost four years, from 1945-1949.
It was in 1951, when Rose was a nurse at MacDill Airforce Base in Florida, that she met patient Charles (Chuck or Fred), a World War II and Korean War veteran. Rose and Charles would later wed, but there are two different versions of how that came to be. Neither can be confirmed, because Charles passed away several years ago, and Rose doesn’t have the capability to remember as well as she used to. One version of the story states that Charles had asked Rose out on a date while he was in the hospital, but Rose said she couldn’t date Charles because he was her patient. Another version, told previously by Rose, was that once Charles got discharged from the hospital, he went out with a friend of Rose’s. This friend thought Rose and Charles would be a good match. Regardless, the Crookshanks’ children have a form that has Rose’s signature as the discharging nurse and Charles’ signature as the patient. And whichever version of the story is true, Rose and Charles dated only two months before getting married in July in Tampa, Fla. After getting married, the Crookshanks were both still in the military for one to two months. After their respective discharges, their life began together in West Virginia.
Charles was from Summersville, W.Va. Rose, having grown up in New Hampshire, was used to colder temperatures. The humidity and warmer temperatures in W.Va. didn’t suit Rose, so the Crookshanks moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts where they had their first child, a son. During this time, Charles was studying to become a photographer while Rose was working as a nurse. They then moved to Richwood, W.Va., where Charles opened a photography studio. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much of a demand for that type of work in that area so they ended up in Charleston, W.Va., where Charles started selling Kirby vacuum cleaners. It was his work that led him to Wetzel County, and he really liked Paden City. Charles ended up going to Mobay Chemical Company where he became the facility’s first and only full-time photographer. He then moved Rose and their two children from Charleston to Paden City and ended up working there for 25 years. They lived in two homes just a few streets apart before having a home built in 1956. This is where Rose still resides.
Patty Wright, a daughter and full-time caregiver of Rose, said her mother is one of the kind of moms that you don’t appreciate until you get older. The Crookshanks had six children, and every meal was homecooked by Rose, including dessert for not only supper – but also after lunch. The wall of the stairs of Rose’s home is decorated with cross-stitch art that Rose completed in her younger days. She sewed the children’s clothes, and every Christmas she knitted slippers, mittens and toboggans. Patty said she can still picture her mother many evenings. As Patty was coming in from school and after supper, her mother was busy knitting as her father watched the news. Patty said Rose always had something in her hands that she was working on. One of the saddest things for Patty is that her mother has developed macular degeneration, preventing her from being able to see to cross-stitch or knit any more.
The Crookshanks were very involved in education. Their primary goal for their kids was to get them all educated. Out of six children, Patty has a brother that became assistant principal at Parkersburg South, a sister that became the director of a Hospice – starting out at Valley Hospice in Wheeling. Another brother owned his own lawn care company in Florida. Patty became a social worker, and another sister became a medical worker. Another brother is a firefighter in the Airforce.
Patty said she wrote a little book of family sayings or proverbs, for her grandson, who just graduated high school and started college. Some of those sayings include, “A place for everything, and everything in its place.” This taught Patty, as a kid, that she was responsible for putting whatever she got out, away. She said she still hears this in her head. Also, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” As well as the old saying by Abraham Lincoln, “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt.”
Rose grew up attending Catholic church where the masses were conducted in Latin. She also had Latin in school for her nurse’s training. She also knew German. Rose was from a family, on her mother’s side, that was French-Canadian, so Rose grew up hearing French. She can say several phrases in French. Patty said sometimes she wasn’t sure if she wanted to know what her mother was saying to them. One of the things that Rose and her husband had in common was their love of music. Charles loved country music and polka, while Rose loved anything from the 30s, 40s, and 50s.
Charles was disabled in 1981 and had to retire from work because of a lung condition, partly due to the chemical plant emissions and partly from smoking. Rose became a nurse to him, once again, taking care of him over the years until his death in 1999.
Just a few months ago, Rose was receiving Hospice care, and Patty thought it was the end of her mother’s life. However, one day, Patty was assisting her mother with a task, and seemingly out of nowhere, Rose exclaimed, “I want to live!”
Patty said at times her mother still questions why she is still here and what her purpose is, as she can no longer do the things she loves to do. She loved crossword puzzles and had a passion for reading. For instance, Rose once told Patty stories of Rose as a child, with a peanut butter sandwich in her bed and holding a flashlight, reading after she was told to go to bed. This passion for reading was passed down to all of Rose’s children.
Charles was the disciplinarian of the family. However, he was away many times as he had a full-time and part-time job. However, the Crookshanks children knew that “no meant no.”
Patty said she wanted to honor her mother for her 95th birthday, because she feels like a lot of times, the women in the military weren’t heralded like the men were. Patty noted that her dad did do a great service, and he loved to relive his military days. However, Rose chose not to talk much about her time in the military. She was in Germany for almost four years, working in hospitals as a nurse.
During Rose’s younger days, she traveled around with her girlfriends to places such as Italy. Patty said her parents would have loved to have traveled more; however, Charles became ill and required oxygen full-time. This hampered the Crookshanks’ travel plans, as Charles was the driver.
Patty said her parents’ idea of family vacation was going to family reunions in Summersville, going to visit her grandmother and her two maiden aunts in Summersville for Thanksgiving, and going to visit one of her dad’s siblings in Philadelphia. Basically, family-related vacations were all the family did, because they couldn’t afford to go places. One of the biggest trips Rose and Charles took was to visit one of their children and a grandchildren when they were married for 32 years. They also went to Honululu, Hawaii to see another one of their daughters, and her family.
Patty said her parents did not publicly display their affection for one another, but they were solid in their commitment to each other and their kids. She said when one of the Crookshanks’ children needed help, their parents were there. She said anytime anyone in the neighborhood was sick, Rose was there. Whether it was to just visit to check on a neighbor, give an insulin shot, or help with sick children, Rose was there.
Patty said her mom’s name is Rose Lucille; her family calls her Rose, but everyone in Paden City calls her Sue. Her father’s name is Charles Frederick Crookshanks. His family called him Fred, but everyone in town called him Charlie or Chuck. Rose, herself, never knew where the name Sue came from – other than the nickname Charles had given her of “Suzie Q.”
Patty said her dad served on the council, and both of her parents worked right at the very beginning of the EMS, as it was being developed on the volunteer squad. Rose did bookkeeping, while Charles was an EMT.
Three of the older children were in the band together. With Rose, being busy running the house and taking care of everything at home, she didn’t often go to any of the football games. However, Charles went to the football games, and many times was conducting the videography of the games.
Patty will be having a small birthday party for her mom, but the gift she would love for her mother to have is the gift of birthday cards. If you would like to send a birthday card to Rose, you may send it to her at 218 N. 1st Ave, Paden City. Patty would love for her mother to receive 95 birthday cards. Patty said it means a lot to Rose to receive a card, and Rose even keeps her cards in a drawer and will re-read ones she’s had for years.