NORMAN — Two World War II veterans from Norman who risked their lives in the midst of European battles received standing ovations this week in ceremonies at the state Capitol.
Retired Army Col. A.D. Hollingsworth, looking fit at age 93 in his military dress uniform, was honored Monday as Veteran of the Week by the state House.
WWII Army nurse Mabel Ruth “Mike” Stephanic, 94, was honored Wednesday on Veterans Awareness Day in a joint House and Senate ceremony. Stephanic received a citation from Gov. Mary Fallin during the event. Stephanic and 12 other veterans who live in the Norman center also were recognized.
State Rep. Bobby Cleveland nominated Hollingsworth for the honor Monday, telling his fellow legislators that “the colonel is an icon if you live in Norman.”
Cleveland, a Slaughterville Republican, said he became aware of Hollingsworth because he was a frequent writer of letters to the editor. A longtime Norman businessman, Hollingsworth was active in community affairs.
His daughter, Marsha Lindsey, of Dallas, accompanied the colonel to the Capitol ceremony.
Lindsey recalled that her father always had a scar on his left knee, and it was a mystery to her when she was a child as to what had happened in the war. She learned that he was wounded when Germans opened machine gun fire at Hollingsworth and the unit’s medic as they were taking food to other soldiers near Anzio, Italy.
Hollingsworth, then a sergeant, was decorated for gallantry when he was with Company “L” of the 108th infantry.
He also received the Purple Heart after participating in the Sicily invasion of WWII. In addition, he received the Silver Star and 18 other medals.
Meanwhile, nurse Stephanic, who was an Army second lieutenant, said it was her “incurable curiosity” that caused her to enlist and she felt it was her duty at the time to be where the war was occurring.
During the Battle of the Bulge, her unit was cut off 12 miles behind German enemy lines, but they held their position until help came. The famed 101st Airborne rescued them.
She had graduated in nursing from the University of Oklahoma. But Stephanic had decorated her wheel chair with an Oklahoma State University banner.
“I always root for OU, except when the Sooners are playing against the Cowboys,” Stephanic said.
After serving more than two years in the military, Stephanic returned to Oklahoma and was a chemistry professor at OSU, where she lived for 27 years before moving to Norman.
Regarding her nickname of “Mike,” Stephanic said she grew up in a Ponca City neighborhood filled with boys.
“They said my name, Mabel Ruth, was too long to say,” so they called her “Mike” and the name has remained ever since.
The honoree said her life continues to be an adventure. A couple of years ago, Stephanic said she had a tattoo placed on her lower leg.
A granddaughter has several tattoos, she said, adding, “I thought it was about time that I got one, too.”