The residents of Washington Commons Retirement Community surprised fellow resident and decorated former Army nurse Frances Planart with their own version of the old television game show This Is Your Life on Saturday.
Planert, 87, sat at the head of the center's dining room, crowned with a tiara, as friends and family members shared memories of the war hero in person and over the phone.
Darlene Stratton, a Washington Commons resident, was inspired to organize the party after becoming friends with Planert and reading her accounts in the book And If I Perish: Frontline Army Nurses in World War II, by Evelyn M. Monahan and Rosemary Neidel-Greenlee.
The authors got her name through the Army Women's War Memorial, and spent two days copying all the photos from Planert's scrapbooks because her chronology was so good, said Carol Marsh, Planert's niece.
Monahan and Neidel-Greenlee also called Planert.
"I read the book and I thought, 'What a fascinating woman,'" Stratton said. "And (from) World War II, so many things have been forgotten."
From accounts detailed in the book:
Planert, then 1st Lt. Frances Miernicke, was called to active duty in the Army Nurse Corps in November 1941. She served in seven campaigns in northern Africa, Italy, France and Germany and was a member of an elite medical corps called the 2nd Auxiliary that followed the battles.
Planert was awarded the bronze star for staying at her post when her Mobile Army Surgical Hospital on the Anzio beachhead in Italy was bombed Feb. 10, 1944.
Days later, Planert escaped injury during a strafing by the German Luftwaffe on the hospital tents, though bullets pierced her combat jacket.
Planert reassured the wounded men they were all right, telling one man who questioned their safety, "I guess if a bullet doesn't have your name on it, it doesn't have your name on it."
Special guests who honored Planert included two daughters and a granddaughter of Ross Hobler, a surgeon who served with Planert.
Planert's recollections about the war and her time with their father helped the Hobler family get a deeper understanding of his life, said Melissa Garner, who along with her sister Margot Hobler and daughter Maggie Garner attended the surprise party.
"My goodness, this has been a tremendous surprise," a near-speechless Planert said.
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