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Last of her kind

WWI veteran Charlotte Winters dies at 109

WWI veteran Charlotte Winters dies at 109

March 28, 2007|by KAREN HANNA

BOONSBORO - A 109-year-old woman who was believed to be the country's last living female veteran of World War I died Tuesday at Fahrney-Keedy Home near Boonsboro.

Friends of Charlotte Louise Berry Winters, who worked as a secretary for the U.S. Navy, said she was proud of her accomplishments, but she did not understand the fuss displayed for her in her later years.

"She would say, 'Why are they doing this for me? I don't deserve all this,'" said Doug Bast of Boonsboro.

Kelly Auber, who grew up on South Mountain, where Winters and her husband, John Winters, settled, recalled walking with her sister to her neighbors' house for tea and cookies.

"An absolutely refined lady," Auber said.

Winters met with Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels in 1916 to persuade him to allow women in the service. When the Navy opened support roles to women, Winters and her sister, Sophie, joined immediately, Auber said.

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Winters was a yeoman second-class when she was discharged after the war, but she continued to work for the Navy in Washington, D.C., until her retirement in 1953, Auber said.

Scripps Howard News Service reported Winters was the last known living female World War I veteran.

"She was very proud of her accomplishments, and when asked, she'd say it was the thing to do, to be patriotic. And, she was very patriotic," said Auber, who now lives in Baltimore County, Md.

Winters was active in the American Legion - she was a member of Betsy Ross Post 1 before the unit became Jacob Jones Post 2 - and she was the chairwoman of the sesquicentennial anniversary of the U.S. Constitution celebration in 1936, Auber said.

Bast said Winters and her husband traveled the country looking for the burial spots of fallen Civil War generals.

Bast, who has amassed a huge collection of historical items, including Egyptian mummies and Russian icons, said over the years, he bought some Civil War items from Winters' husband.

Winters' husband also passed down some items, including a Bible used by the Union provost marshal in Washington, D.C. An inscription on one of the pages says more than 10,000 Confederate rebels swore on the book their renewed allegiance to the country, Bast said.

Auber said Winters and her husband met at the Naval yard and married in 1949. As a new bride, Charlotte Winters already was more than 50 years old. The couple settled on South Mountain to be near the area's Civil War heritage.

Despite an age difference of about 65 years, Auber called her former neighbor a mentor, and she still relishes memories of the teas at Winter's house.

"She was trying to teach my sister and I to be ladies," Auber said.

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