Sister Dorothy Hillenbrand, WWII Army nurse

Sr. Dorothy Hillenbrand
Sr. Dorothy Hillenbrand
Posted: August 31, 2013

Sister Dorothy Hillenbrand, 92, a U.S. Army nurse, who served in the European Theater during World War II, died of a heart ailment Tuesday, Aug. 27, at McAuley Convent in Merion Station.

A native of Allentown, Sister Dorothy enlisted in the Army Nurse Corps in March 1943 and was assigned to Fort Crockett in Galveston, Texas.

She served as an active-duty nurse in the 40th Field Hospital attached to the Ninth Air Force.

Three days after the D-Day invasion, she landed at Normandy. Over the next two years, she served in England, France, Belgium, and Germany. She was honorably discharged in January 1946 with the rank of captain."She didn't talk much about what she had seen," said colleague Sister Patricia Carroll. But those who knew her said Sister Dorothy worked at a hospital, tending the wounded straight from the battlefield.

She was known as a caring, compassionate nurse. But she brooked no nonsense from underlings who didn't follow directions. "Then you met the Army nurse," Sister Patricia said.

Sister Dorothy returned home a mature woman with "a singular purpose" - to leaven her skills, Sister Patricia said. Before the war, she had earned her nursing degree from the St. Luke's Hospital School of Nursing in Bethlehem; after the war, she enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania, and earned a bachelor of science in nursing education.

During the early 1950s, she lived with a family in West Philadelphia and nursed one of its members. The family greatly influenced her religious beliefs. As a result, Sister Dorothy, formerly an Episcopalian, was baptized a Catholic in 1952 at Holy Cross Church in Springfield, Delaware County.

She treated with respect the culture and ritual pageantry of both denominations, Sister Patricia said.

For several years, Sister Dorothy worked for the Delaware County Community Nursing Service, until she entered the Sisters of Mercy in August 1956 at age 35. She professed her vows in 1959.

She was a head nurse, then instructor, for seven years at Mercy Hospital in Philadelphia. For 12 years she worked at Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital in various capacities, including instructor, staff nurse, and infection-control specialist.

Her favorite, though, was evening supervisor. "She liked the mobility and varied responsibilities that came with that job," said Sister Patricia.

Sister Dorothy returned to Mercy Hospital in Philadelphia to work in patient relations.

She held staff positions at Villa St. John in Downingtown, and at McAuley Convent, before retiring in 2003 to the latter in Merion Station.

Surviving is a brother, Richard. Two other brothers died earlier.

Services will be at 11 a.m. Friday, Aug. 30, at the Convent of Mercy Chapel, 515 Montgomery Ave., Merion Station, Pa. 19066. A viewing is at 10 a.m. Burial will follow in the Community Cemetery.

Donations may be sent to the Sisters of Mercy Mid-Atlantic Community at the address above.

Contact Bonnie L. Cook at 610-313-8102 or


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