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Irene Zieske

May 23, 1915-March 21, 2009

Irene Zieske, 93, of Manteno, Ill., died Saturday, March 21, 2009 at the Illinois Veterans Home in Manteno.

Irene Gertrude Rita Zieske was born the daughter of Charles William and Helen (Spaeth) Zieske on May 23, 1915 in Greenwald, Minn.

Irene was one of only 500 female World War II combat nurses. As a lieutenant, she landed at Utah Beach with Patton's 1st Division, 3rd Army and served in a field hospital (a la the TV series "MASH," but not nearly so glamorous) on the front lines through France, Belgium, Luxemburg, Germany, Austria, and Czechoslovakia, finally ending her European service caring for the survivors of the holocaust concentration camp at Mauthausen, Germany.

Irene's accomplishments were all the more remarkable considering her small town roots in Albany, Minn., where having lost her father at age 10, she went on to become valedictorian of her high school class. Unable to accept a college scholarship due to lack of adequate personal funds, she paid her own way through St. Mary's School of Nursing in Minneapolis and subsequently volunteered for World War II Army duty, insisting on combat nurse assignment despite poor eyesight.

After returning to civilian nursing, Irene reentered the Army Nurse Corps during the Korean War and afterward went on to a distinguished peacetime military career, winning many commendations and awards for her untiring medical service throughout the world, including subsequent assignments in Japan, Italy, Germany, Hungary, Missouri and California.

Irene is survived by her brother, Raymond Zieske of Moorestown, N.J., and nephew Randolph (Pat) Zieske of Rolling Meadows, Ill.

Preceding her in death were her parents, Charles and Helen Zieske, and by her sister-in-law, Ann Zieske.

Private graveside services will be held Thursday, March 26 in Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Elwood, Ill.

Clancy-Gernon Funeral Home of Manteno is handling the arrangements. An online guestbook is available at

In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to Hospice of Kankakee Valley, 482 Main St., Bourbonnais IL 60914, a not-for-profit organization.