Buchko looks back on time with Gray Ladies


August 17, 2019

Megan Hughes/Daily Globe

Joan Buchko's Gray Ladies uniform, seen here, is displayed alongside photos of her life, provided by her son, Tom. The red patch on the sleeve reads "American Red Cross Volunteer."



Ironwood - Looking back, Joan Buchko of Ironwood remembers her time serving in the Gray Ladies fondly.

The Gray Ladies was an organization dedicated to the support of their communities, providing friendly, recreational services to patients in local and military hospitals notably during the world wars, according to her son, Tom Buchko.

The group was affiliated with the American Red Cross and was formed of volunteers that donned grey and white uniforms. During World War II, the group expanded to almost 50,000 women nationwide.

The Ironwood branch got its start shortly after a plane crash on Tank Hill, in what is now Norrie Location, resulted in the death of a pilot. A local Air Force captain encouraged his wife to start the local branch, to show those who had served that they are supported when back home, Joan Buchko explained.

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Tom recently put her old uniform on display on her door of her room at Westgate Nursing, Rehabilitaion and Assisted Living in Ironwood. It has gained some popularity with the tenants and staff.

Buchko was one of the six ladies that formed this initial Ironwood branch, performing volunteer services to local hospitals and other medical care facilities. She was named activities director for their branch, working alongside local hospitals and nursing homes to provide entertainment and support to patients.

"We would take patients out of their rooms, and perform some activity with them," Buchko told the Daily Globe Friday.

She told several stories about the activities she and the other local Gray Ladies would do, performing songs and dances, writing letters, and dressing up in costumes to put smiles on patients' faces.

"Our job was to make people feel comfortable," she said.

Buchko spoke about some of the events she had partaken in, one of which involved an autumn performance that had her wearing a pumpkin on her head.

"The carved part rolled to the back of my head at some point, and I couldn't see what I was doing. I didn't find it funny at the time, but the patients did, and that's what mattered," she said.

Tom went through old photos and found a few from around the time his mother was involved with the group, some of which he brought to the interview. "I feel like physical objects have this ability to connect people with their memories." he said.

Her uniform is one of the mementos that she has kept from that period of her life, and is proudly displayed on her door.


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