At 100-years-old, Marcy played role in history of Pelican–and the world
As a young nurse in a nasty war, Marcy Schlemma was adventurous and, at least at first, a bit naive about the horrors of warfare.
“This was a chance to see something besides corn fields in Iowa,” said Marcy Korda, a small town, farm gal who “milked many, many cows.”
“It was an adventure,” said Marcy, of her enlistment in the U.S. Army, not long after the U.S. entered World War II.
The Marcy Korda adventure continues to this day, as she approaches her 100th birthday. While perhaps best known as an Army medical corps veteran, she and her family have been an integral part of Pelican Rapids area history for nearly 75 years.
“I’ve had an excellent life “ said Marcy in a telephone interview. Even though she didn’t anticipate being a Pelican “lifer,” she concluded that it has been a near-perfect experience.
Through Pelican years, Trinity has been a constant
A member of Trinity Lutheran Church since its formation in the early 1950s, including the ambitious construction project for the new church. “I thank the Good Lord for everything about it,” she says of her bond with Trinity. “It’s been my church for all these years…”
She’s not quite spry enough to work the big Trinity church dinners and events—but age hasn’t prevented her from working with the quilting volunteers.
“Nothing fancy,” laughed Marcy of her needlework. “But I’ve done a lot of sewing.”
In fact, the quilting crew is planning to reassemble, with proper COVID precautions, and Marcy intends to join them at the church.
Many friends are gone; but Marcy still has plenty of good friends in the Pelican area. Especially among Trinity’s congregation.
“She is an outstanding lady. And not just her history in the Service, but here in Pelican Rapids,” said Faye Siegle, who dates back to the 1960s with Trinity and the Korda family. “She has been a role model to so many of us.”
Still the nurse and “safety officer,” Marcy always “ordered us to get our seatbelts on” when they went out for social events, laughed Siegle.
Still driving, Marcy motors around Pelican—but not much further. And, not at night.
“But she has always said: When she feels she can’t drive anymore, she’ll pass along her keys,” said daughter Rachael (Korda) Gabe. Ever the cool-headed pro; Marcy has the wisdom to know “when to say when.”
It has been a privilege for Rachael and her husband Richard to return and retire to their native Pelican Rapids area to be close to Marcy. “One of the best decisions we’ve made,” said Rachael. “We are so blessed she is still with us…It was our choice to come up and help our aging parents.”
Marcy a lifetime member of Pelican VFW Club
Rachael and Marcy still enjoy a few rounds of Bingo at the Pelican VFW Post 5252–where Marcy was presented a lifetime membership. She’s been active in the VFW Auxiliary, though not as frequent in recent years.
A proud veteran, Marcy has hardly missed a Veterans Day or Memorial Day observance in Pelican Rapids over seven decades.
Hobbies—from Bridge to jigsaw puzzles
Bridge was consistent hobby for Marcy. “I haven’t done much of that since COVID took over.”
But the truth is, her card-playing days were dwindling anyway. “Years ago, we played in homes…I continued with Bridge Club until I was about the only one left!”
In the meantime, she’s become a puzzle-master.
“I’m addicted to jigsaw puzzles.”
A practical task-master by nature, Marcy doesn’t tackle the 1,000 piece puzzles that keep people up half the night.
“I do the 300 piece puzzles…I like the ones where I can see a little progress,” she laughed.
At home, Marcy keeps herself healthy. Makes soup, and “makes sure her diet is well balanced,” said Rachael.
As for the future of Pelican Rapids, from one who has been a integral part of its past: “I think Pelican is progressing. It’s not sliding back, like many small towns,” said Marcy. She notes the ambitious plan for a new city swimming pool and aquatic park, as an example.
Young soldiers, nurses embarked on a journey to the history books
But back—before her Pelican Rapids years, Marcy Schlemma was a recent nursing school graduate, serving at the center of a global conflagration.
Like many young people off to war; the notion that they’re a component of history is not necessarily well-developed.
“I think we had a basic concept of patriotism…and it soon occurred to us that we were taking part in history,” recalled Marcy.
“At the time, we had absolutely no idea what war was like…They didn’t teach that in nursing school,” said Marcy, a couple weeks prior to her 100th birthday.”
Patriotism was a motivating factor.
“Our country was at war…Both the Japanese and the Germans wanted to rule the world.”
At the time, she didn’t feel particularly like a “trailblazer.”
“We were there to do a job.”
From North Arica to Sicily to Italy
By the time Marcy and her unit arrived in North Africa, the Germans were on the run and hostilities were largely over on the continent.
But next stop was the Mediterranean and the campaign on the Italian peninsula—where the conflict was raging.
Reality hit, when a German bomb dropped down the stairway of the hospital ship—which was “lit up like a Christmas tree” as a non-combat target.
The British medical teams suffered the most fatalities, but Marcy and her colleagues were able to get up on deck. “I wasn’t too concerned, because there were other ships right there. They would come and get us.”
To their horror, the ships began moving away, until the captain of one of the ships realized they were in trouble, and came back.
“The lifeboats on one side of our ship had been destroyed. So they dropped their lifeboats over and they were able to get us off…The inside of our ship ended up burning, and it was sunk the next day.”
After landing on Anzio Beach, the hospital where her unit was assigned was bombed. Killed were three nurses, a Red Cross worker, a couple of officers and “I don’t know how many enlisted men.”
“It was a tragic day, we lost our chief nurse and assistant chief nurse. It was very traumatic.”
“I think I developed kind of a fatalistic attitude—whatever was going to happen; was going to happen. It was strange, but our chief nurse was often very worried and afraid—whereas a lot of us weren’t. She was older and probably had seen a lot more life than I had.”
After the hospital bombing, “we were prepared for just about anything.”
Marcy worked in surgery. Her role meant limited direct, personal contact and communication with the war-wounded soldiers. Perhaps that was a good thing.
“The patients came and went. I wasn’t in a tent where the guys were in a recovery situation, so I didn’t really get to know them as individuals…They had pre-op, and were in the best possible shape before they came to us for surgery.”
In a sense, her surgical duty created a certain clinical distance—and a less “personal” impact.
“If we lost patients after surgery, we wouldn’t likely know about it.”
When her unit relocated from the Italian campaign to France, it was after the D Day invasion. The German forces were on the run, being pushed out of France and back to Germany. Her unit was well behind the lines.
“We knew they were being defeated…we knew it was coming to an end.”
Back in 1944, the Germans were lobbing bombs at Marcy Korda but when Pelican hosted state Legion baseball tourney in 2018, the Army nurse veteran fired the first shot
It was a grand morning at the ballpark August 3, 2018, as members of the extended Korda family from throughout the U.S. gathered for the opening of the American Legion state baseball tournament, hosted in Pelican Rapids.
World War II Army nurse veteran Marcy Korda, had the honor of throwing out the first pitch.
Korda family pictured in the grandstand:
Row 1 – Left to Right:
Emma Hartzberg, all of Washington D.C.
Renee Korda, Washington, D.C.
Marcy Korda, Pelican Rapids
Michael Korda, Portland, Oregon
Rachael (Korda) Gabe, Pelican area
Kelly Alexander, both Washington D.C.
Row 2 – From left:
Stephanie Hartzberg, Washington D.C.
Mark Olson, Washington, D.C.
Laura Huston holding Avett Huston
Novy Huston, all of Vancouver, Canada
Renee, Rachael and Michael are all Pelican Rapids High School graduates in the 1960s. Korda kids also graduating from Pelican are Roxanne and Rae—who were unable to make the trip back.