By Frederick N. Rasmussen, The Baltimore Sun
2:11 PM EDT, October 29, 2012
Marie McG. Leaf, a World War II combat nurse who cared for the wounded and dying on the battlefields of Europe, died Thursday of complications from Alzheimer's disease at the Augsburg Lutheran Home and Village in Lochearn.
She was 95.
The daughter of Irish immigrants, Marie Kathleen McGee was born in New York City. After her mother died when she was 3, she and her sister were sent to County Cavan in Ireland to be cared for by relatives.
Her father, who had remarried, and brother moved to a home on Fulton Avenue in Baltimore. She and her sister moved there in 1930; their father had died the year before.
Mrs. Leaf took evening classes at City College, where she earned her high school diploma, and while she was working in the cafeteria at St. Agnes Hospital, a sister encouraged her to study nursing.
A registered nurse, she earned her nursing degree in the late 1930s from St. Agnes Hospital School of Nursing.
Mrs. Leaf joined the Army Nurse Corps in 1942 and was sent to Europe, where she served as a surgical nurse with the 35th Evacuation Hospital.
"My father was called up in 1941, and she decided, if he was going, she was going," said a son, Michael E. Leaf of Bel Air. "He wasn't too happy about that."
On June 3, 1944, in England, Mrs. Leaf married her fiance from Baltimore, Carville Benson Leaf Sr. He was serving with the 110th Field Artillery Regiment of the 29th Division.
He landed on Omaha Beach the day after the initial June 6, 1944, D-Day invasion, and Mrs. Leaf landed on the same beach two weeks later.
At war's end, the 35th Evacuation Hospital had earned five battle stars, and had participated in campaigns in Normandy, Northern France, Rhineland, Ardennes-Alsace and Central Europe.
"During the war, she took a tremendous number of pictures. She also talked about seeing Gen. George Patton twice when he visited their hospital," her son said. "He chewed out a nurse for sleeping who had been up working for 72 hours. That upset her."
Mrs. Leaf served in France, Luxembourg and Germany before being discharged with the rank of lieutenant at Darmstadt, Germany, a week before the formal German surrender on May 8, 1945.
After the war, Mrs. Leaf and her husband, who was a logistics manager for Bendix Field Engineering, settled in Pikesville.
Her husband's work involved helping install radar, and they lived in Anchorage, Hawaii, Fort Walton Beach, Fla., and Green River, Utah, before moving to Lochearn.
He died in 2001.
Mrs. Leaf worked as a private-duty nurse in hospitals and nursing homes, and was on the staff at the old Veterans Administration Hospital on Loch Raven Boulevard from 1970 to 1980.
She retired from nursing in 1993.
"She enjoyed attending reunions of her hospital unit and continued doing that until about 10 years ago," her son said. "She kept in touch with the nurses, doctors and orderlies. She was the kind of woman who made friends easily, and they became friends for life."
Mr. Leaf said his mother was an avid letter writer who maintained a voluminous correspondence with family and friends.
"She wrote long, long letters," he said.
Mrs. Leaf also enjoyed spending time with her family and traveling to Ireland and England.
She had been an active communicant of St. Charles Borromeo Roman Catholic Church, 101 Church Lane, Pikesville, where a Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 11 a.m. Friday.
Mrs. Leaf is also survived by two other sons, Carville B. Leaf of Denton and Dennis A. Leaf of Dayton, Howard County; two daughters, Virginia "Pat" Ritter of Finksburg and Barbara A. Stewart of Richmond, Va.; 13 grandchildren; and nine great-grandchildren.
Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun