December 23, 1919 ~ April 16, 2016
Madonna Marie Domeier English
A member of the "greatest generation" who served her country in active service as a Lieutenant in the United States Navy Nurses Corps during World War II and the mother of seven children, Madonna Marie English passed away peacefully on April 16, 2016 in her home of more than 60 years in Hermosa Beach. It is in celebration of her life that we remember her many accomplishments.
Born Madonna Marie Domeier on December 23, 1919 in her family's modest home in Springfield, Minnesota, she was the second of five children to parents of German and Swiss heritage. Madonna's grandparents had emigrated to the United States in 1867 and 1872, respectively. Growing up in Minnesota gave Madonna values that helped her throughout life.
First there were the normal challenges of life. Grammar school at St. Raphael's and then high school at Springfield High School. While going through normal growing pains, the country entered the Great Depression. The depression in the 1930's hit hard in rural Minnesota and Madonna learned many traits which have stayed with her for her entire life. Whether it was a penchant for saving, reusing materials such as yarn, tin foil and jars, or learning to get by with ingenuity, she developed an unending optimism that allowed her to thrive. Goals were set with the understanding that hard work and determination was necessary.
Starting college in 1937, Madonna attended St. Catherine's University for one year. Fate drew Madonna to a vocation that would capture her attention and immense talents – nursing. As a result, in 1938 she transferred to St. Mary's Nursing School. She worked hard and excelled, graduating in 1941 with her nursing degree and pin.
1941 was a seminal year for the United States as the country was slowly being drawn into World War II with the European conflict only to be jolted into hostility with the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941. Drawn to serve her country and able to contribute her skills to the greater good, Madonna entered the United States Navy Nursing Corps in 1942, rising to the rank of full Lieutenant.
Madonna spent nearly five years in the Navy, serving at United Sates Naval Hospitals located in: Mare Island, California; Great Lakes, Illinois; Norman, Oklahoma; Long Beach, California; and the Navy Dispensary in Minneapolis, Minnesota. While laudable, it was Madonna's service in the US Mobile Hospital #7 which became a defining moment in her life. With the United States starting the Asiatic Pacific Campaign (which was the beginning of the end of the war in the Pacific), Madonna served on nursing ships and mobile units in the South Pacific that supported the front lines and slowly moved northward as island after island were liberated. For her efforts, Madonna earned the right to wear the American Campaign, Asiatic Pacific Campaign, and American Victory ribbons.
Nursing in World War II was not as we know it today. Penicillin was a new discovery but in scarce supply. Sulfa drugs were no match for the wounds of the soldiers injured in brutal combat. Nursing consisted of daily triage by which nurses had to make critical life saving decisions. Throughout her life, Madonna received cards and letters from battle survivors thanking her for her compassion, as compassion was sometimes the only medicine available to administer to the heroes who occupied the nursing wards.
While serving in the South Pacific, Madonna's younger brother John enlisted in the infantry. After training at Camp Pendleton, John was sent to Hawaii in 1944 to help liberate the islands occupied by the Japanese. John was part of the liberating force on Iwo Jima where he was killed in combat in March 1945 during the historic and well documented battle. Word of John's heroic death reached Madonna while she was helping others recover from their wounds.
As World War II progressed, Madonna was a symbol of a greater movement both in the military and in civilian life – women in positions of responsibility. Whether it was Rosie the Riveter, WASP pilots shuttling airplanes, or nurses serving in ranking officer positions in the Navy Nurses Corps, women were contributing in remarkable ways. As a result, Madonna was invited to share her experiences with Eleanor Roosevelt during the First Lady's fact finding tour of the South Pacific. Sharing lemonade with Eleanor Roosevelt in a grass hut in New Caledonia, Madonna was able to share her experiences both as a woman and officer that allowed the First Lady to understand the pressures and successes she and others like her faced in military and civilian life.
Other events also resonated with Madonna. During a transport on a PBY Catalina amphibious plane, engine trouble caused the plane to make an emergency landing in the ocean. After floating for a day and a half, she and other nurses were rescued. Later, she had the privilege to golf with Bob Hope on a USO tour. She remained appreciative of the sacrifices Bob Hope made to bring joy to the troops on the front line.
While serving at the Long Beach Naval Hospital after World War II, Madonna dated and ultimately became engaged (on Veterans Day!) to Robert Earl English of Hermosa Beach, California. After being married at St. Raphael's Catholic Church (where Madonna attended grammar school), the newlyweds moved to Hermosa Beach in 1947. Madonna lived in Hermosa Beach for more than 69 years.
After her discharge from the Navy in 1947, she started a family with new husband. In 1950 her first daughter, Jeanne, arrived. A year later in 1951, her first son, Bob, was born. Then in 1952, her second son, Tom, joined the budding family. A year later in 1953, her third son, Don, arrived. After a short breather, her second daughter, Maureen, was born in 1956. Then her third daughter, Judy, joined the family in 1959. Finally, Susan, her fourth daughter was delivered in 1962. Seven children. As Madonna would say - "Pheeeeeeew."
As the family grew, Madonna and family moved to the new family home on the beach front in 1956 where she continued to live until she passed. She was known for driving around town with the seven children in her 1956 VW bus. To utilize her nursing skills, and to help support the thriving family, Madonna joined the workforce working as an orthopedic nurse. She also donated countless hours as a volunteer school nurse for all the schools her children attended.
Given seven children, she volunteered a lot. She kept her nursing skills sharp by taking continuing education classes until just a short time ago.
With the skills she acquired in the Navy, and with the values honed by the depression and World War II, Madonna raised the seven children in a loving environment, enriching her family with her wit, charm and love. She attended Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church where she worshiped for over 55 years. Madonna, a widow, is survived by her seven children, 12 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.
A visitation and rosary will be held for Madonna on Tuesday, April 26, from 5 to 8 pm at White & Day Colonial Chapel located at 901 Torrance Blvd., Redondo Beach, CA 90277. A funeral mass for Madonna will take place on Wednesday, April 27, at 10 am at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church located at 440 Massey Street, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254.
Madonna would normally not do anything to draw attention to herself and her accomplishments. Therefore, we honor her and her years of sacrifice in giving to others by suggesting contributions in lieu of flowers to one of the following in her name:
1. Our Lady of Guadalupe Church
2. Challenged Athletes Foundation
3. Guide Dogs of America
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