Wilma Lynette Gorley Schulz, the firstborn and second child of Robert Mayfield and Zella “Lucile” Nelson was welcomed into this world at the family home in Golden, Colorado on October 18, 1921. Robert, her 2 year old adopted brother, was there to greet her. She was christened in the Methodist faith at Arvada, Colorado in August 1923. In 1924 the family moved to Carlsbad, New Mexico where her father accepted a new position with the Bureau of Reclamation. It was here that her brother, Richard, was born and Wilma started to school. Following, the sudden death of her husband in January 1928 and left to fend for her three small children, ages 9, 6 and 3, Wilma’s mother returned to Curtis, Nebraska. The move provided the family with support from the Gorley and Nelson families who were both well-established and had a history of early settlement of the area. While there, Lucile met her future husband, Joseph Ralph Burns. Following their marriage, they relocated to Carlsbad, but eventually returned to Curtis. Despite difficult times associated with the Depression, the family welcomed the birth of a son, Howard, in 1935. February 1939 found the family met with the untimely death of Wilma’s mother. This event fractured the family unit and resulted in the three children who were still at home to be taken in by different relatives. Wilma was fortunate to find a loving home with her paternal uncle and aunt, Joe and Ella Gorley. This enabled her to remain at Curtis where she graduated from the Nebraska School of Agriculture High School in 1940. Wilma and Richard eventually lost contact with their baby brother who had found homes with his father’s relatives in Pennsylvania. Little did they know that the three of them wouldn’t be reunited for 48 years.
After graduation, Wilma found employment to earn money for college as a nurse’s aide at Lincoln General Hospital in Lincoln, Nebraska. In September 1941 she entered the Mary Lanning School of Nursing at Hastings, and graduated in September 1944. It was during this time that she volunteered to join the Army’s Cadet Nursing Program and following her graduation was mustered into the U. S. Army Nurse Corps in November 1944 at Fort Sheridan, Illinois. Following basic training at Camp Carson, Colorado, Wilma cared for injured soldiers at Fitzsimmon Hospital in Denver until March 1945 when she left to serve with the 312th General Hospital in the Pacific Theatre. On May 1, 1945 she served with the 312th M.A.S.H. until it was deactivated in October and was then briefly a part pf the 262nd Station Hospital while awaiting orders to go to Japan. Wilma was one of seven nurses who were mistakenly dropped off at Hiroshima following the atomic bomb attack. The group of young women was immediately met by armed military police who announced that the area was off limits and they would need to leave. However, the plane had only landed long enough to drop off the nurses and their foot lockers so no options were left for their departure. Left with no orders and no immediate prospects for a hospital to be transported in and set up, the group spent some of their idle hours by scavenging for intact objects. Their only “find” was a small bowl with a chip. They were allowed to wait for the arrival of their M.A.S.H unit on a small nearby island. Luckily, none of the group manifested any ill effects that were associated with the aftermath. Wilma recalled that treating the malnourished and mistreated prisoners of war proved to be an especially trying task. However, attending Hirohito’s trial and hearing of the atrocities he chose to commit to not only his enemy, but also his own people, brought tears every time she shared this experience. Achieving the rank of First Lieutenant and awarded two Bronze Stars and other decorations, Wilma mustered out of the Army on the 25th of March 1946.
While in nursing school and the Army Nurse Corps and after returning to civilian life employed as a nurse at Mary Lanning Hospital, Wilma had become lifelong best friends with Josephine “Jo” Zimmerman Reichstein. Besides nursing duties, Jo decided to take on the role of cupid and introduced Wilma to Elmer Schulz, a fellow Veteran and good guy at a dance in Blue Hill. Both were smitten. They were married at the Methodist Church in Curtis, Nebraska on October 6, 1946. They settled in Blue Hill and Wilma continued pursuing her career in nursing. Working as an OB nurse during the “baby boom,” she witnessed the use of empty drawers to compensate for the lack of cribs and was working when the explosions occurred at the Hastings Ammunition Depot. She joined the Lutheran faith at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Blue Hill on May 5, 1948 and remained a faithful, giving, and contributing member until her late 90’s.
Two sons, Michael Harold in 1949 and Robert Allen in 1953, gladdened their home and completed their family. With the advent of the Blue Hill Medical Clinic Wilma was afforded the opportunity to continue her career while also serving her community. She also worked at the Webster County Hospital as a surgical and floor nurse for many years.
Despite continuing her career in nursing until age 79, Wilma always made time for her family. She doted on her grandchildren and lavished them with her gifts of love which ranged from handcrafted quilts, afghans, clothing, and baked goods, but above all else, her love and devotion. Often accompanied by Aunt Dot and cousin, Nina, Elmer and Wilma seldom missed any of their grandchildren’s games, recitals, musicals, and other activities. In 1996, Wilma and Elmer were blessed to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. Over the years, Elmer and Wilma enjoyed camping excursions with their family and later-in-life travels to many states including Hawaii, and yearly pilgrimages to Elmer’s Army reunions.
With Elmer’s unexpected passing in July of 1998, Wilma continued to serve her community, church, and others, as well as support the grandchildren at their various activities. She continued her zest for new experiences and was afforded trips with her family to New York City, Washington D.C., Los Angeles, and Utah. “Grandma Wilma” also became an adopted and much celebrated member of the Yost Family and was a constant at their holidays and celebrations. She was able to remain in the home that she and Elmer had built in 1949 until September of 2019 when she suffered a broken hip. She then chose to become a resident of Heritage Home at Red Cloud to be near Bob and his family. While there she had the honor of celebrating her 98th birthday with friends and family.
Due to COVID-19, her 99th birthday was celebrated with a soft serenade outside her window. Wilma peacefully passed on December 11, 2020.
Interment was at the Blue Hill Cemetery on Wednesday, December 16th.
Besides her parents and husband, Elmer, Wilma was preceded in death by her brothers, Robert (Rose) Gorley and Richard (Ann) Gorley; sister-in-law, Dorothy (Ervin) Meyer, and great-grandson, Michael Schulz.
Survivors include her brother, Howard (Diane) Burns; sons, Mike (Rita) Schulz, and Robert (Suzi) Schulz; grandchildren, Brian (Lynn) Schulz and their children, Taylor and Trevin; Evan Schulz; Ashley (Scott) Schulz Bruckner and their children, Caleb, McKenzie, Oliver and Chloe; Bri (Bruce) Schulz Nelson; and Seth (Antona) Schulz; along with many loving nephews, nieces and cousins.
Celebration of Life with military honors were Friday, 2:00 pm, October 15, 2021 at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Blue Hill with Rev. Leah Krotz officiating.
Williams Funeral Home
241 West 4th Avenue
Red Cloud, Nebraska 68970
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