Local military heroes have been spotlighted during the last four years at the East Liberty Memorial Day Celebration, and among their ranks have included a Civil War captain; Gen. John J. “Black Jack” Pershing’s personal secretary during World War I; a survivor of the Bataan Death March; and a corporal who served in World War II’s Battle of the Bulge.
This year as medical personnel locally and around the world bravely work on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic, a World War I U.S. Army nurse, Clara Goldsmith, has been named the 2020 East Liberty Hometown Hero for the fifth annual award.
While the East Liberty Memorial Day ceremony is among the many local observations that have been canceled this year, East Liberty resident Jeff Hall and his son, attorney Tyler Hall, have researched the late Mrs. Goldsmith, a Logan County native, to put together a video presentation honoring her work as a nurse during another difficult time in the medical field.
The video will be available at the Perry Township website, www.perrytownship.net, along with the East Liberty Church of Christ’s Facebook page. Tyler wrote a reflection about Mrs. Goldsmith, World War I nurses and the current times to be shared in the video.
“We are generous and compassionate by nature in this country, and we see that generosity and compassion time and again,” he wrote.
“Sometimes we realize it during the times of national or local emergencies as communities band together to support each other. Other times we will simply notice how our neighbor comes to plow out our driveway after a few inches of snow.
“At its base, we all have, and we give to those who have not. We do not need to be commanded to do so by some higher authority; we want to help.
“The pinnacle of that selflessness manifests itself in segments of our populace that we all know: medical first responders, law enforcement, and military service members. These are individuals whose assistance goes well beyond the norm. In many cases, they hold our own lives in their hands as they treat us, protect us, and defend us.
“Clara Goldsmith, this year’s Hometown Hero, was such a person.”
The father and son’s research has revealed that Mrs. Goldsmith was born April 16, 1895, in Logan County, and later moved with her family to York Center, where she attended school. She was the daughter of Matthew and Mary Johnston Rosebrook.
Mrs. Goldsmith had a twin sister, Cara; a sister Mae; and brothers William, John Benjamin “Ben”, and Chester.
She entered Nurses Training School in Springfield during 1913, where she graduated three years later.
During 1918, the East Liberty honoree became an Army Nurse in Camp Pike, Little Rock, Ark. Mrs. Goldsmith battled rheumatic fever for 10 weeks in a Fresno, Calif., hospital.
When the nations of the world entered World War I, it was one of the first conflicts in which professionally trained nurses were an integral part. By extension, the conflict illustrated a dependence on medical personnel trained in trauma care and the urgency to prepare them for war.
More than 22,000 professionally trained female nurses were recruited into the American Red Cross for service with the U.S. Army between 1917 and 1919, and more than 10,000 of these served near the Western Front, the father and son learned in their research.
Another 1,500 or so nurses served in the U.S. Navy during this time, and several hundred more worked for the American Red Cross.
“The nurses of World War I found themselves situated in numerous places around the frontlines of the war,” Tyler wrote. “Some worked in field hospitals just behind the lines, more were placed in evacuation hospitals miles further back, and others were located at base hospitals safely away from the front. These hospitals spanned the globe and were in Australia, Egypt, England, France, Belgium, Greece, India, and modern-day Turkey and Israel.
“The nurses endured many of the same terrible hardships the soldiers experienced: exhaustion, homesickness, grim conditions, bitter winters, and intense heat. Additionally, various diseases and infections spread where the nurses worked, especially in field hospitals, due to the crude and often unhygienic areas.”
The nurses of the day also grappled with a viral outbreak known as the “Spanish Flu.” Known as one of the deadliest outbreaks ever, the Flu infected around 500 million people, about a third of the global population.
The Spanish Flu killed between 17 and 50 million people, a wide-ranging estimate that reflected the brutal conditions realized in treating the disease and tracking deaths.
By comparison, the contemporary coronavirus afflicting the present day thus far has resulted in just over 5 million infections worldwide and 328,000 deaths.
The implementation of professional nurses in World War I was exceedingly helpful and aided in saving untold lives, Tyler related. Several nurses from World War I received awards and commendations for their bravery and courage.
Many nurses are at rest in Arlington National Cemetery. More than 650 nurses who fearlessly served in the U.S. Armed Forces are buried in Section 21 of the Cemetery, which is often called the “Nurses Section.” There, amidst a backdrop of evergreens, an 11-foot-tall white marble statue appears to gaze reverently upon the deceased nurses that lie before her.
After the war, Mrs. Goldsmith served on the staff of the Ford Hospital in Detroit in 1923. One year later, in 1924, she married her husband, David, and they were married for 47 years.
She was very active at the East Grand Boulevard Methodist Church in Detroit, serving as church librarian, school secretary, and church treasurer.
Later in life, she returned to Ohio. She lived in Marysville and became a member of the First United Methodist Church there. Mrs. Goldsmith died March 10, 1978, and was buried in the East Liberty Cemetery.