The state of Louisiana mourned last week after the death of one of its oldest World War II veterans, Major Emiline Bourgeois, at the age of 103.
Bourgeois died in Thibodaux, Louisiana, the same place she was born, but she certainly saw her fair share of the world in her time as an army nurse. She graduated from the Hotel Dieu School of Nursing in 1941 in response to an increased need due to the growing war effort. After 4 years as a nurse in the U.S., she enlisted in the U.S. Army Nurse Corps in 1945.
She began her service in the Philippines, and, after the closing of the Pacific theater, she finished her World War II service in Germany at an allied hospital. She continued to serve on the ground through the Korean War but later accepted an officer’s commendation and returned to the U.S. to act as the head nurse of obstetrics at the West Point Academy Hospital in New York. In 1962, she was honorably discharged and allowed to return home to care for her aging parents in Thibodaux
Over the course of her 17 years of service, she received the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign medal, World War II Victory Medal, National Defense Medal, and Germany Occupational Medal. However, titles and rank aside, she was best known for her nickname, Douce. Named after the Italian word for sweet, the people of Thibodaux adored her for her excessive love and kindness and Douce was considered a pillar of the community for 55 years.
She passed the day before Halloween at St Joseph’s Hospice after 6 weeks under their care. The staff have shared that they all felt she was a kindred spirit, being a former nurse, and that they too were impacted by her incredible kindness and sweet attitude. Bourgeois will be remembered for years to come in the Thibodaux community as a stirring example of what it means to be a nurse, caring and committed to the people around her.