Gertrude Noone dies at 110; world’s oldest known living military veteran

‘Fiercely independent’
Gertrude Noone speaks with Army Secretary Pete Geren in March, when he honored her in recognition of Women’s History Month and the Army’s Year of the Non-Commissioned Officer.
(Richard Messina / Hartford Courant)

Gertrude Noone was a 44-year-old insurance policy clerk for Travelers in Hartford, Conn., in 1943 when she enlisted in the Women’s Army Corps.

When she died peacefully Thursday morning at age 110 at an assisted-living facility in Milford, Conn., she was the oldest known living military veteran in the world -- a fact that made her proud.

“Oh, she loved it,” Deborah Woods, a grandniece, said Friday. “She felt it was important to serve when she did during World War II.”

Noone, who rose to the rank of sergeant first class, was chief clerk of the large dispensary at Ft. Myer, Va., by the time she left the Army in 1949. She then worked as an administrative assistant at a private psychiatric hospital in Stamford, Conn., until retiring in 1962.

Bob Johnson, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel who has spent the last 19 years helping World War I and World War II veterans receive recognition and awards, said the title of the world’s oldest known living military veteran passed to Noone when British World War I veteran Harry Patch died July 25 at 111.

Johnson first heard of Noone last fall and worked to have the Department of Veterans Affairs recognize her as America’s oldest living veteran.

“As a World War II veteran,” he said, “she was older than the two living World War I veterans living in the United States,” Canadian-born John Babcock, 109; and Frank Buckles, 108.

Woods, who praised Johnson’s efforts in getting recognition for her great-aunt, said one of the highlights of Noone’s life came in March when Secretary of the Army Pete Geren visited her at her home at the Carriage Green assisted-living facility.

Honoring her in recognition of Women’s History Month and the Army’s Year of the Non-Commissioned Officer, Geren called Noone “a woman who has served with great distinction.”

“What better representative of those two occasions,” he is reported to have said. “She has lived a life that has been part of the history of our country and our Army.”

One of 10 children, Noone was born Dec. 30, 1898, in Ansonia, Conn.

All nine of Noone’s siblings predeceased her. The most recent was her sister Esther Balogh, who served as an Army nurse during World War II and died in 2003 at 103.

Noone, who never married, lived with Balogh for many years until 2002, when she moved into Carriage Green, where she joined the gardening club and participated in a weekly exercise group.

Although Woods said her “fiercely independent” great-aunt “was winding down a bit” over the last year, she continued to read the daily newspaper and watch CNN. She also made a point of voting in the presidential election in November.

“She voted for John McCain,” Woods said, “but she wondered if maybe he was too old to be president.”

As for Noone, Woods said, “she never gave into age, never complained about anything. She was a very upbeat person, smart as a tack and had a very clever sense of humor.”

Indeed, Woods said, “she never thought of herself as elderly. She absolutely did not. Somebody told her once that she didn’t look a day over 80, and she said, ‘Do you think I look that old?’ ”

Noone will be buried with full military honors today at Mount St. Peter’s Cemetery in Derby, Conn.

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