Ordelle "Sally" Schmidt was a woman of great integrity. She was strong willed and believed in doing the right thing. She had a big heart, but was also a force to be reckoned with. She had to be. After all, she was one of a few females serving in the U.S. Army in the 1950s. This career military woman was well-prepared for her career as a nurse administrator in the Army. She graduated from Milwaukee County General Hospital School of Nursing (MCGHSN) in 1944 with a nursing diploma.
In 1945 Schmidt enlisted in the U.S. Army and served in the Army Nurse Corps. She served all over the world as a nurse administrator during World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. It was tough work, made even tougher by the fact that she was female. A 1984 Milwaukee Journal article said Schmidt spent her 25 years in the military living with an attitude she characterized as, "Tough, kid, you're a second-class citizen." She fought discrimination every chance she got, and was dedicated to her career.
"I have no doubt that she was always fair and also that she never failed to speak up if there were any inequities or areas that needed improvement," said Mary Maes, her goddaughter.
As she worked her way up the military ranks she served as a surgical supervisor at a hospital in Korea, and as chief operating room nurse. A letter of appreciation from 1960 states, "The Surgical Service of the 43rd Surgical Hospital (MA) would like to express their appreciation for the cooperation you have given them. Your professional knowledge and technical skills contributed immensely to the success of the operation of the Surgical Service." It is interesting to note that this hospital unit was the prototype for the hit TV series, M*A*S*H.
Following in the footsteps of Florence Nightingale's work during the Crimean War (1854-1856), Schmidt developed a process for improving operating room techniques. According to Ken Kretlow, her friend and personal representative, "Sally cared deeply for her patients and colleagues. Over time, she noticed too often that soldiers were fighting bacterial infections after their operations. In response, she developed a new plan and process for appropriate scrub technique by staff as well as handling of instruments, which became standard for the Army." A letter of appreciation from the Army states, "The equipment and all instruments were in perfect order and shape. The cleanliness was supreme. That the bacterial counts almost invariably were negative was based on your inexhaustible strive for surgical asepsis."
Schmidt retired as a Lieutenant Colonel in 1970. She returned to Milwaukee to care for her parents, and spent time enjoying her many hobbies including sewing, playing the organ, reading and researching her genealogy. "She was a very accomplished seamstress, and enjoyed creating many of her own beautiful clothes," said Maes. "I remember being very impressed by her abilities—she was a classy dresser for sure!"
"Being a single, career military lieutenant colonel, Aunt Sally was a woman ahead of her time. She had great ambition to be the best nurse and supervisor that she could be," Maes continued. "From when we were very young she would remember me, my brothers and sister with souvenirs from her travels, and through her we got a taste of the world. She taught us to be courteous and responsible in our manners. She showed love through her loving actions."
Schmidt passed away Feb. 15, 2015 at the age of 93. Perhaps owing to her military training to always have a plan, Schmidt determined how her assets were to be allocated after her passing. In a final gift of love and generosity she included her loved ones and favorite charities—including the MSOE School of Nursing (the successor of the MCGHSN).
For more information on designating MSOE in your estate contact Ted Fitzpatrick at (414) 277-7148 or email@example.com.
For your service to the country and for your kindness and generosity, we thank you, Sally.