Mildred S. Theobald, 81, WWII Red Cross worker

March 09, 1997|By Fred Rasmussen | Fred Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Mildred S. Theobald, who as a World War II Red Cross worker helped bring a little bit of home to combat-weary soldiers in the Pacific, died Tuesday of heart failure at the home of a niece in Catonsville.

Mrs. Theobald, 81, was a resident of Tamarac, Fla.

In 1943, Mildred Silcott, who was then living in Catonsville, decided to join the American Red Cross and was sent to New Guinea and the Philippines, where she helped establish stations under primitive conditions not far from the front lines.

"Joining the Red Cross was a very exciting thing for a young woman to do, and it was rewarding work," said a niece, Libby Silcott Lewandowski of Lutherville.

"She used to say that she had to beg, borrow and steal to set up those jungle stations, often with meager supplies," Mrs. Lewandowski said.

"Today the Red Cross in the Pacific is mother, father, teacher, adviser, entertainer, banker and personal news agency," wrote Howard M. Norton, The Sun's war correspondent, from New Guinea in 1944.

"It was more than coffee and doughnuts. They helped keep the soldiers in touch with home as well as offering entertainment and diversion," Mrs. Lewandowski said.

"Despite the adversity, she always said it was one of the most exciting times of her life," said her niece.

After the Japanese surrender, she was sent to Japan where she was put in charge of establishing Red Cross centers for American occupation forces.

In addition to opening traditional installations, she created a traveling Red Cross Center, which would go to the troops in areas with no Red Cross presence.

She had a railroad passenger car outfitted as a traveling Red Cross car, which was uncoupled from trains and placed on sidings until it was taken a few weeks later to the next destination.

In the late 1940s, she was one of the few Americans allowed to visit Beijing's Forbidden City before China was closed to the West.

In 1947, she joined the Army Special Services and was assigned to Berlin, where she directed an Army service club during the Berlin Airlift.

While serving in Germany in 1953, she met and married Lt. Col. Herbert P. Theobald. An artillery officer, he had served in the North African and Italian campaigns. He died in 1964.

Mrs. Theobald was active in the St. Vincent DePaul Society at St. Helen Roman Catholic Church in Tamarac, where she was a communicant.

"At the church, she established a food pantry, where she worked until recently, helping to feed the needy and the homeless," said Mrs. Lewandowski.

Known as Billie, Mrs. Theobald was born and raised in Catonsville. She was a 1933 graduate of Mount DeSales Academy and studied social work at American University. She was banquet director at the Belvedere Hotel before joining the Red Cross.

A memorial Mass was offered yesterday at St. Agnes Roman Catholic Church in Catonsville. Burial will be at Arlington National Cemetery.

She is also survived by six nephews, John B. Russell and Edward N. Silcott, both of Baltimore, Edward O'Brien of Chesapeake Beach, Thomas B. Silcott of Columbus, Ohio, Michael O'Brien of St. Louis and Patrick O'Brien of Wichita, Kan.; and two cousins, Gerard Abbott of Baltimore and Patricia Gallagher of Connecticut.

Pub Date: 3/09/97

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