LeFaivre in her nurse cadet uniform

Mary Miller LeFaivre, a resident at Life Care Center of Carrollton, Missouri, was born on Jan. 12, 1925, in rural De Witt, Missouri.

 

LeFaivre grew up in a poverty-stricken area, but she would end up being a part of a living legacy.

 

When LeFaivre graduated high school at 17 years old, in the midst of World War II, she was ready to leave home but didn’t have the money for college.

 

In 1943, LeFaivre turned 18 and moved to Kansas City, Missouri, because there were no jobs in the impoverished area of her home town.

 

LeFaivre went to work for the Army Ordinance department, where she cleaned and re-salvaged parachute packs. The parachutes were stuffed with blankets, medicines, splints, gloves, socks and any other supplies a soldier might need. The packs were then dropped overseas behind enemy lines to soldiers.

 

In the same year LeFaivre moved to Kansas City, a bill was passed on July 1, 1943, establishing the United States Army Nurse Corps. The program accepted women ages 17 to 35 who were willing to serve in the U.S. and abroad. The training lasted 30 months, and those accepted into the program received a government subsidy paying for nursing school tuition, room and board, uniforms and textbooks. The cadets were also given a stipend of $15-$30 per month. In return, the cadets were required to pledge to actively serve in civilian or federal government services for the duration of World War II.

 

It was during that time LeFaivre saw a billboard on Hospital Hill in Kansas City, advertising a need for nurses. 

 

“The billboard had a picture of a nurse in a uniform, with a statement from President Franklin Roosevelt encouraging women to join,” recalled LeFaivre. “I remember they were offering free tuition and free uniforms. I had a happy feeling, and it was beautiful to have the opportunity.”

 

LeFaivre applied, was accepted into the program and inducted into the U.S. Army Cadet Nurse Corps at Little Theatre in downtown Kansas City in 1944.

 

On Valentine’s Day in 1944, LeFaivre began nursing school at Saint Mary’s Hospital on Hospital Hill. She lived in the nursing dorms and remembers having a curfew of 9 p.m. on weeknights, an occasional 11 p.m. on weekends and how the nurses weren't allowed to have children or a car.

 

LeFaivre graduated from nursing school in May 1947 in a ceremony in the hospital chapel. Soon after, she took the nursing state board exam and passed, becoming a registered nurse. However, by the time she graduated, the war had ended. She was sent a letter stating that if the military needed the women within a certain time period, she would be called back to duty.

 

After that, LeFaivre moved to Marshall, Missouri, where she began working as a nurse for Fitzgibbon Memorial Hospital. She lived in the nursing dormitory and worked in surgery and the emergency room. LeFaivre remembers being on call for 24 hours at a time.

 

LeFaivre also worked as a nurse at a shoe factory in Marshall. Eventually, she moved back to the Kansas City area and worked as a nurse at various places, such as Western Electric, Allis Chalmers and the Lake City ammunition plant.

 

“I worked in the infirmaries,” shared LeFaivre. “It was like a walk-in clinic with no bedside care, walk-in patients and we worked under a physician.”

 

After decades of service as a nurse, LeFaivre moved to Carrollton, Missouri, in 1996. She continues to live out her retired years and has just recently realized what a great story she has in being a part of the Cadet Nurses of World War II and the movement in careers for women.

 

LeFaivre moved to Life Care Center of Carrollton on December 16, 2014, and is a much-loved resident.