This year marked the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the U.S. Cadet Nurse Corps, and Lakeview’s Barbara
Wheelock is a local celebrant; namely because she served in the corps.
Wheelock, 86, received special recognition during a November veteran’s remembrance dinner at the Lakeview Elks Lodge, as a member of the corps that served between 1944 and 1947.
The corps, established in 1943 to fill a void left by nurses nationwide that had left to serve during the wartime effort, served an important role during World War II before disbanding in 1948.
For Wheelock, nursing ambitions started early in her childhood, growing up in Arkansas City, Kan.
Typical of that era, Wheelock said her mother encouraged her to take stenographer courses, but, after graduating high school, she ultimately pursued nursing training. The outbreak of World War II and particularly the United States’ involvement following Pearl Harbor further cemented her ambition.
“It was a matter of everyone saying, ‘what can I do?’” she said, noting the intense patriotism of the era. “Everything was just (a matter of doing) without as much as you can.”
The spirit of patriotism pervaded her family’s sense of national pride, Wheelock said. Her father, Ira Beach, worked as a night watchman at the Strother Air Force Base, while her brother, disabled with no legs and partially missing an arm, donated no less than 5 gallons of blood during the war effort.
Wheelock received her first six months of nursing training through the Sisters of St. Joseph’s at St. Mary’s Hospital in Winfield, Kan. She earned affiliation through a children’s hospital, and received her three months of psychiatry training at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Wichita, Kan.
The latter training Wheelock noted as her least favorite, given the limited drugs and pharmaceuticals of the era. Insular shock and electroshock therapy were common practices, and patients often reverted back to their prior behaviors.
After departing the corps in 1947, Wheelock said she performed some private nursing work before moving to California, where she lived with an aunt for a time. Eventually, she made her way to Lakeview, as some five or six nurses from her corps unit saw recruitment to Lakeview’s hospital, then located at the present site of the Lake County Senior Center.
Wheelock was among about five or six nurses to come to Lakeview, and emerged as the only one that made the decision to stay. As she described it, she arrived on “borrowed ten dollars, a suitcase and a diploma.”
In March 1948, she married her first husband, to whom she was married 23 years before they divorced. She was married to Richard Wheelock 40 years before his passing in 2010.
She and Richard had seven children and 20 great grandchildren, collectively.
Locally, Wheelock remains active in the community as a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4070 Ladies Auxiliary, the Lake County Historical Society, a local quilting group and the Lakeview Assembly of God church.
During her working life of 43 years, Wheelock worked for the local hospital, in both the site now occupied by the senior center and the current site when it first opened in the early 1970s. She also worked as a supervisor for the nursing home, as well as in acute care.
Wheelock cited Mabel McDonald as an instrumental source in helping her get her registered nurse certification for the state of Oregon.
“She was my mentor,” she said.
The last eight years of her working life, Wheelock worked at Lake County Public Health.
Looking back on her years during the wartime effort, Wheelock said that it was a societal spirit of the time in which everyone wanted to do their part in preserving a free nation.
“We were proud of our country, and we wanted to keep it free, and we did what we could,” she said. “I would never change anything, because you would make more mistakes the second time around.”