Rebecca J. "Jane" Frank was a registered nurse who during World War II served aboard hospital trains.
Rebecca J. "Jane" Frank was a registered nurse who during World War II served aboard hospital trains. (Baltimore Sun)

Rebecca J. "Jane" Frank, a registered nurse who during World War II served aboard hospital trains, died Aug. 4 at the Charlestown retirement community of complications from a stroke. She was 95.

The daughter of Charles Raymond Gilbert, a shoemaker, and Mary Floyd "Floy" Gilbert, a baker, Rebecca Jane Gilbert was born in Middletown, Pa.

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When she was a child, she moved with her family to Mount Joy, Pa., when her father took a job there with the Gerberich Payne Shoe Factory.

After graduating in 1937 from Mount Joy High School, she enrolled at the St. Joseph Hospital School of Nursing in Lancaster, Pa., where she earned a nursing degree in 1940. She was working at St. Joseph Hospital when she enlisted in the Army Nursing Corps in 1941.

Commissioned a second lieutenant, she was sent to the Aberdeen Proving Ground and then to what is now the Walter Reed Medical Center, where she served as a nurse.

Mrs. Frank participated in a nursing recruiting campaign and was featured in Look Magazine modeling the new Army Nursing Corps uniform.

She was later sent to Charleston, S.C., for field training before she received orders that sent her to England.

Mrs. Frank sailed from New York on Christmas Eve 1944 aboard the U.S. Army Transport George Washington, a former North German Lloyd liner, for Southampton.

"One of the stories she told was that on the crossing the ship had trouble with its rudder and it took them longer to get there. And this would have put them in some additional danger if they had to leave the convoy and escorts," said a son, Jon S. Frank of Prince Frederick.

"Another memory she had was, because it was Christmas Eve when they departed New York, all of the troops had miniature Christmas trees stuck in their helmets," he said.

Once she arrived in England, Mrs. Frank was assigned to the 58th Hospital Train in Portsmouth, England, a port city, on the English Channel.

"She was one of six nurses that served on the train which transported wounded soldiers from coastal ports and airfields to interior hospitals and convalescent centers," her son said.

"She was in England for the duration of the war and she was aboard hospital trains," said another son, Dr. Charles Gilbert Frank of Richmond, Va.

"Very few people were aware that they had hospital trains. They were a very limited unit and there was a unit in England and one in France," said Dr. Frank. "She lived on the train. That's where the nurse's quarters were."

"She kept a bicycle on the train and on her days off she'd go riding in the countryside," said her daughter, Mary Ann Honeman of Westminster.

"She was in London for Victory Europe in May 1945, and Victory Japan in Sept. 1945, and she said it was a very exciting time," said Jon Frank.

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Mrs. Frank returned to New York aboard the RMS Queen Elizabeth in 1945, and was discharged with the rank of lieutenant in April 1946.

After the war, she returned to Mount Joy where she met and fell in love with Dr. Charles B. Frank, a veterinarian and career Army officer, who was a native of Mount Joy. They married in 1947.

Her husband, who had survived the infamous Bataan death march and life as a Japanese prisoner of war for three years, weighed 83 pounds when he was liberated Sept. 7, 1945.

After the war, her husband resumed his military career and served in Germany as well as at the Pentagon and at Fort Meade, before retiring in 1968 with the rank of colonel. He died in 1995.

The couple lived for years in Fort Washington's Tantallon community before moving to Charlestown in 1992.

At Charlestown, Mrs. Frank served as vice commander of the VFW Post at the retirement community, which is named after her husband, and a member of the garden club.

"She had been a hospice volunteer for many years at St. Agnes Hospital, where she used her compassion as a nurse once again," her son said.

She regularly visited residents at the retirement community's care center and helped transport them to church services. She was also involved with the Lighthouse of Prayer.

She traveled extensively across the U.S. and abroad and enjoyed mahjong, line dancing and continued playing golf well into her 80s, despite low vision due to macular degeneration. She also regularly swam until this spring.

Mrs. Frank was an Orioles fan and never missed listening to a game, her son said.

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Tuesday at Our Lady of the Angels Chapel at Charlestown, 700 Maiden Choice Lane. Interment at a later date will be in Arlington National Cemetery.

In addition to her three children, Mrs. Frank is survived by six grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.

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