A proud and vigorous Roeland Park World War II veteran passed away last week.
Lillian Hoch Macek, 92, who died Jan. 14, served as a nurse with the 77th Evacuation Hospital, organized at the University of Kansas Medical Center during World War II.
Macek, then known as Lillian Hoch, was one of the almost 50 nurses attached to the 77th, along with about 30 doctors and perhaps 325 enlisted men.
Over the years Macek often could be seen at veterans events across Johnson County.
During the 1990s, Macek — in uniform — attended Independence Day concerts at Santa Fe Commons Park in downtown Overland Park with friend Dorothy Early, another 77th veteran.
In 1997 Macek — again, in uniform — was among almost 100 World War II veterans who accepted commemorative medals from the French government in ceremonies at Shawnee Mission North High School. Macek accepted a medal for herself as well as her late husband, Leon Macek, a World War II veteran who died in 1990.
In 2009, Macek was among 40 Kansas City area World War II veterans who flew to Washington on an Honor Flight to visit the National World War II Memorial.
Her mother took pride in her wartime service, said daughter Loretta Macek, who accompanied her mother on the trip.
“The war years were the pivotal years of her life,” Macek said.
“She was strong, having grown up on a farm, and was able to step up to the plate for her country.”
Macek grew up in Russell County, Kan. After graduating from Wilson (Kan.) High School in 1938, she completed nursing training at St. John’s Hospital in Salina in 1941.
She and two nursing school colleagues vowed that, if the United States entered the war, all three would join the effort. After the Dec. 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor, they applied to join the 77th, then being formed.
“But there was a lot of camaraderie like that, because we all knew we were there for a reason,” Macek said in a 1999 interview.
The 77th Evacuation Hospital was among about 40 such units that operated in Europe during World War II.
The first stop for the 77th was Oran, Algeria, in November 1942. The unit participated in the North Africa and Sicily campaigns and arrived on Utah Beach, on the Normandy coast of France, on July 7, 1944, about one month after D-Day.
At St. Mere Eglise, where doctors and nurses bivouacked in individual pup tents, morning reveille represented more of a challenge for the unit’s nurses. Where the men could dress largely outside the tents, the nurses did not have that option.
“Dressing while sitting up in a pup tent is a real pain in the neck,” Macek said.
The hospital maintained about 750 beds, all in tents.
During the Battle of the Bulge, a German counter-attack that began in mid-December 1944 and lasted several weeks, the hospital’s doctors and nurses attended to more than 1,000 patients a day. That year the 77th treated 35,086 patients, 20,925 of them in Verviers, Belgium, before and during the battle.
“The thing that bothered me the most was that I was never warm,” Macek, then 84, said upon the battle’s 60th anniversary in December 2004.
“To this day that is my most important priority. I put in a new furnace this year.”
The unit’s last formal reunion took place that year in Dayton, Ohio.
The memories of the Bulge never left her mother, Loretta Macek said.
She and her sister Anita Macek routinely noticed over the years that their parents would grow thoughtful or even downcast about the middle of December.
“At some point my mother explained that the battle had been so horrible that it had stayed with them,” she said.
Macek and her sister couldn’t help but notice that their mother’s recent health issues had begun in mid-December.
“When we noticed the timing, it seemed logical,” she said.
A gathering to honor Lillian Hoch Macek is scheduled from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday at D.W. Newcomer’s Sons, 8201 Metcalf Ave., Overland Park.
To reach Brian Burnes call 816 234-4120 or send email to email@example.com.