Founders Hall: World War I experience

For an intimate account of a WWI experience, including an eyewitness view of a troopship tragedy, come to the seminar, The Mongolia Incident: Letters of a WWI Nurse, on Friday, June 16, at 1 p.m. Vernon Beck will share the story of his grandmother, Zella Maude Judy, who through a series of insightful and occasionally irreverent letters, chronicled her experiences as an army nurse in one of the first American medical units to be sent to the war.

“These letters have a real character to them,” says Beck. “They’re like M*A*S*H, but with a nurse instead of a doctor and in WWI instead of Korea.”

Beck’s talk is not based on family remembrances but on research done by retired professor of geography William Walters of Illinois State University, who acquired the letters after they were donated to the school.

According to Walters, “They tell the story of a young woman who, when she found unspeakable suffering, stepped forward to do what she could to ease the pain.”

As you’ll hear, Zella survived tragedy on the troopship Mongolia, was gassed and stricken by influenza, “yet she emerged with her sense of duty intact and spirit of rebellion undaunted.”

Beck notes that while his grandmother was hardworking and devoted to the care of wounded soldiers, she was also feisty, fun-loving and adventurous. Come hear this deeply personal story of a remarkable woman in extraordinary times.

Books of Summer Tea, Friday, June 9, 2 p.m., sponsored by Books on the Common.