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Taps for WWII veteran witnessed by only a few
Topeka Capital Journal - 3/30/2020
World War II veteran Margaret Lorenzen’s family had to scramble to find a chaplain and an honor guard to properly bury the 97-year-old because the coronavirus pandemic has ground even the mourning of heroes to a halt.
At high noon on a pristine Saturday at Hillcrest Memorial Park in West Palm Beach, Lorenzen was buried with just two members of her family present.
“You don’t have to have the virus to have it profoundly affect you,” said her nephew, William Lorenzen.
“If it were in normal times, just for my aunt, I would have invited the American Legion. I would have invited some of the women’s groups. We would have had much more family.”
The military was able to provide an honor guard to play taps and to drape Lorenzen’s casket in the American flag.
Lorenzen enlisted when she was 18, becoming one of the first women in the regular Army as the nation entered World War II, working stateside to provide the troops with engineering supplies.
Families have turned to virtual mourning as travel restrictions and social distancing eliminate large group gatherings. Mourners can dial into a memorial service to grieve though others are choosing to cremate loved ones and hold funerals later.
Margaret Lorenzen didn’t die from COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus that has killed more than 2,000 Americans. She succumbed on March 21 to complications of dementia after living out her last days at Gerstenberg Hospice Center in West Palm Beach.
It took numerous calls just to pull off the burial. Because her pastor was in quarantine, the chaplain from the hospice performed the service on Saturday.
“It’s just been a roller-coaster,” said Lorenzen, who attended the service with his mother, Marie Lorenzen, the deceased’s sister-in-law.
Brad Zahn of Tillman Funeral Home and Crematory said this is a new norm for mourners. “People are not coming out now, family and friends, with this COVID.”
He said because Hillcrest is a private cemetery, the family was able to secure the honor guard. “She deserved that,” Zahn said. “There’s not too many WWII people left.”
After the war, Ma Bell
William Lorenzen said his aunt, who went by Midge, grew up a bit of a tomboy and wouldn’t let her gender keep her from serving. Her brothers Hennie and Ernie served in the war with the Navy and Air Force, respectively.
She enlisted in the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps and became one of the first women to be inducted into the full Army with the same rank, privileges and benefits as her male counterparts.
After WWII, Magaret Lorenzen went back to her job at the telephone company, transferring in 1952 to Southern Bell in Florida.
In 1968, Lorenzen became the first woman commander of the American Legion Post 47.
“Honestly,” her nephew said. “She was kind of kickass.”
John Pacenti, The Palm Beach Post