LT. COL. SUZANNE ELIZABETH LUCHUCK(1915-1997)
Penfield Nurse Served During Three Wars
By: Ruth Gregori
In 1989, at the request of her nieces, Sue Luchuck wrote her memoirs. Her journal tells of her insights into her early family life, the hardships of her immigrant parents, the devastating loss of two brothers, and of the successes in her own life and the love for her family.
Suzanne Elizabeth Luchuck was born February 23, 1915 in Byrnedale, a daughter of Michael and Katherine Lalusiak, which was later changed to Luchuck. When they moved to Mill Run in 1928, she attended the one room school there and later the Huston High School in Penfield where she graduated as Valedictorian of the Class of 1935.
Her valedictory speech was about the value of friendship. She lived that message throughout her life in her relationships with her family, friends and military comrades.
When Sue graduated from high school, she wanted to be a nurse. To achieve this, she went to work at the Hygrade- Sylvania plant in Emporium in order to save money. In her generosity and love of her mother, the first thing Sue bought was a Maytag washing machine to make laundry days easier for her mother.
Sue entered Western Penn Nursing School in Pittsburgh, graduated in 1940 and then worked at that hospital.
In June 1941, her brother Steven, known as Abe, joined the Army Air Corps. They corresponded while he was in training and she would generously send him extra money for stamps and personal items. Abe’s unit was sent to the Philippines, but after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and the Philippines, Abe was reported missing June 10, 1942 in the surrender of the Bataan Peninsula and the Death March that followed.
Their brother Mike enlisted in the Army Air Corps in 1942. Sue decided to enlist in the Army Nurses Corps in July 1942. She volunteered for overseas and requested assignment to the Pacific Theater, hoping for an opportunity to find her brother Abe.
In 1943, she was assigned to the 45th General Hospital medical unit stationed overseas in Morocco. After the North African Campaign ended, they were sent to Naples where she cared for casualties from Anzio and Cassino and other battlefields until the war ended.
Sue was visiting a monastery in Capri when she heard “the joyous news that the war had ended”. She wrote that “the bells started pealing and people were singing”. A young soldier ran to her shouting, “Lt., the war is over! The war is over! We can go home!” After a few minutes of celebration, she returned to the Church for solitude.
After the war ended, Sue was then reassigned to the 32nd Station Hospital in Caserta, Italy. It was there she received the news that her missing brother Abe had been officially declared as dead.
By 1948, she had been promoted to Captain and was sent to Okinawa where she reenlisted in the newly formed Air Force thinking she would have a better opportunity for assignment to the Philippines. She was assigned to the U.S. Philippine Scout Hospital at Fort McKinley and in May 1950, she was finally able to locate Abe’s grave.
She advanced through rank and received her Bachelor’s Degree while stationed in Arizona. In 1965, she had rank of Lt. Colonel. As a female officer at that time in the military, she couldn’t be promoted to full Colonel, even though she had served the required time and was eligible. She retired in 1965 with almost 23 years of military service, including World War II, Korea and Vietnam. Among her many medals and ribbons were Battle Stars for her WW2 service in the Rome-Arno Campaign and the Naples-Foggia Campaign, the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award (47th Bombarment Wing), and the Air Force Commendation Medal.
She then started a new career in Riverside, California Public Social Services where she worked for twelve years. After her second retirement, she traveled extensively around the world and again traveled to her brother Abe’s grave located in the Manila American Cemetery.
Sue’s generosity to her family continued through the years. One year, she invited her sisters and nieces to visit, all expenses paid. She had their schedule all planned. Like military clockwork, they were up at 6 a.m. and didn’t stop until 6 p.m., but they traveled all over California and Nevada.
At age 81, Lt. Col. Suzanne Elizabeth Luchuck passed away on February 13, 1997 in St. Vitas Hospice in Riverside, California and was buried in the Riverside National Cemetery there.
Sue had developed progressive hearing loss throughout her career. Her generosity continued even after her death as she had donated her temporal bones to the House Ear Institute in Los Angeles.
Suzanne Luchuck’s name is on the WWII Honor Roll Memorial in Hollywood, along with the names of her brothers, Michael and Steven. There is also an honor stone with her name beside her parents and brothers, Adam and Steven, located in St. Joseph’s Cemetery in Force.
Thank you for your long service to our country.
By: Ruth Gregori
Memories and information from Evelyn Fauls, her sister, cousins and Sue’s own sister, Mary Rio.
Aunt Sue’s Journal written in 1989
Lest we forget…..