U.S. Marine Dick Nooe was shot multiple times in the leg and the face, three days before the end of the Korean War. Blinded by the shots, Dick felt his life—as he knew it—was over.
Evacuated by helicopter to the nearest Mash Unit, he ultimately made his way to the Blind Rehabilitation Ward at the Hines Veterans Administration Hospital in Chicago, Illinois. He remained there from February through July 1954. While there he healed, with the help of one very special American Red Cross volunteer—a Gray Lady named Sara Scotchell.
Sara, a young professional, signed up with several gals in her office to become Red Cross Gray Ladies, named for the grey uniforms the volunteers wore. Gray Ladies read and wrote letters, talked and provided non-medical support to sick, injured and disabled veterans.Dick and Sara Nooe fell in love more than 50 years ago when she was a Red Cross Gray Lady in a VA Hospital. Photo Credit: Barbara Behling
Every Thursday, Sara’s team, assigned to support the blind unit, would host a social, providing snacks, beverages and music. “We were there to help the veteran’s become more active,” she commented. “Dick was standing in the corner, looking a bit pathetic, so I asked him to dance.”
That dance was the first of many in their 55 years of wedded bliss. “We weren’t supposed to go out with any of them, but we did start to smooch a bit,” she blushes. Dick adds. “The boys told me she was good looking and if we went outside I could see a muffled outline of her face and body. While never truly seeing her, I know she is beautiful.”
After Dick was discharged from the hospital, he returned to Oregon to pursue a Social Work degree. The two kept in touch by letter and an occasional phone call. Sara would tape a love letter on a recording device and send it to him; he would listen to it on a Dictaphone belt. She traveled to Oregon during one summer break. The long-distance engagement was official in 1956. Soon after, Dick earned his graduate degree and they started a family.
Today, the Nooes live in Neenah, Wisconsin. At 80, Dick is still counseling part-time and is still giving back by working with local veterans. A year ago, they returned to Hines Veterans Administration Hospital to visit with other blind veterans. Dick always delivers a message of hope. “Look at us, together we have enjoyed a wonderful life,” he says, “We are blessed with two children and six grandchildren. We love to travel to Europe, Hawaii and across the United States.”
Each summer, they attend their military reunions—even though each year fewer and fewer veterans are there. Sara’s Gray Lady dress and hat have been safely stored through the decades. Her Red Cross volunteer pin is placed in the family keepsake box. It’s right next to Dick’s military ribbons of valor, including the Purple Heart.
Today, Dick and Sara continue to support the American Red Cross across the country and around the globe. “I give in my wife’s honor,” he said. “Just imagine if I had not had this young Red Cross volunteer in my life?”