Local native registered at women’s memorial foundation for her service during World War II
World War II nurse and Altoona native Regina Julia Pisch served her country, and thanks to her only child, is now among those
registered at a memorial honoring military women who make American history.
In June, Pisch’s daughter, Betty Roberts, 67, of Altoona donated items from her late mother’s Navy military service to the nonprofit Women in Military Service For America Memorial Foundation, located at the ceremonial entrance to Arlington National Cemetery.
The memorial honors the millions of women who have served and are serving in the United States Armed Forces beginning with the American Revolution, the foundation website said.
Pisch’s items included documents, identification tags and bracelets and uniform emblems.
Roberts also registered her mom’s biography with the foundation. The computerized register contains 250,000 women’s stories, the foundation website said.
The foundation’s oldest artifacts date back to the Civil War, said Curator of Collections Britta Granrud. Its largest collection is from WWII.
The foundation receives “quite a bit” of donations, however, “I never know what I’m going to get,” Granrud said.
“Everything’s unique and that’s what the memorial’s about … each individual donation makes up the collective history of women in the military… And when you think about it like in World War II, 400,000 women served so there’s just all these treasures out there,” she added.
Among the donations from Pisch were documents that concerned her preference to serve in the Navy Nurse Corps and classifying Pisch as 1A, available for military service, as opposed to essential for civilian nursing service due to her position as a private duty nurse.
Granrud had never seen either of the documents before.
“It’s an interesting piece of history that I never [have] come across,” Granrud said when speaking of the classification document. “And nursing was such a vital need and so essential to the war effort and what’s interesting is [that] this is dated 1944, so even later in the war they were still sending out letters like this.”
Serving her country
In the early 1940s, Pisch, whose maiden name was Bennetti, graduated from Mercy Hospital School of Nursing in Altoona.
Once graduated, she applied for enrollment in the Red Cross nursing service and joined the Navy Nurse Corps, serving during World War II from April 1945 until March 1946.
She served at the U.S. Naval Hospital in Philadelphia in the orthopedic and amputation wards, receiving an honorable discharge at the end of the war, Roberts said.
Pisch, who was an extremely private person and held on to the privacy of the Navy and her patients, was very proud of her naval career.
Upon discharge she began working as a public health nurse in Philadelphia’s inner city, her daughter said.
“She was extremely dedicated, really her whole life, to working with different health needs. … Her job, it was always about service to the needs of whomever she was working with,” Roberts said. “The lessons that I could learn from, she would share, but they were lessons about compassion. They were lessons about getting her hands dirty, if you will. They were lessons about really getting into the day-to-day life, social needs.”
After working as a public health nurse, Pisch joined the Philadelphia Police Bureau women’s division.
She and her first husband and Roberts’ dad, Salvatore Maiorana, became at the time Philadelphia’s only married police team, serving the juvenile delinquent division from 1951-54.
Roberts has a framed clipping from the Philadelphia Inquirer Magazine about it.
“But the point being it was a lead story at that time, and the fact that in the ’50s, when your primary role as a woman was either a nurse, a teacher or a homemaker, my mother sort of pioneered her womanhood in that area of service,” Roberts said.
She met Maiorana, a Naval policeman, at the U.S. Naval Hospital in Philadelphia. Maiorana, who Pisch cared for during his illness “hands-on” and “around the clock” until he was moved to a medical center, died of colon cancer in 1956 at age 46, Roberts said. Pisch was 34 at the time.
A return home
To care for her ailing mother and be closer to her family, Pisch, who was a geriatric nurse for a short time, moved back to Altoona in 1961. A few years before that she had married Charles J. Pisch.
Regina Pisch became a psychiatric nurse at Cresson State School and Hospital. She retired from there in 1983 at age 62.
“I not only looked up to her, but really lived out a lot of her lessons that I had learned,” Roberts said.
“I am extremely proud of her life. Everything she did from getting up in the morning to going to bed at night was service. She took care of her mother. She took care of her husband. She took care of me, of course, in raising me and getting me into a successful pattern of living. I just respect, admire and loved her very much.”
Roberts learned the memorial was accepting memorabilia and “decided what better place for these artifacts to be for posterity but in the archives of the women’s military memorial,” she said.
Roberts said she will receive a list of the items she donated from the foundation, and each item receives a documentation number. Those interested in seeing or studying the items need her permission. The memorial foundation can choose to put them on temporary display, however. The donors are notified if items are chosen for display, she said.
“But the importance of this is the gathering of as much information from women who served from any point in the military,” Roberts said. “I found it to be a tribute to our history, our nation.”
The memorial, a powerful place to visit, is “a historical lesson on how our country needed women, treated women and how women developed as a result of their service to our country,” she said.
Mirror Staff Writer Amanda Gabeletto is at 949-7030.