#17 Marna Bell – Marine Corp. Nurse

Lt. Marna Bell, US Marine NurseMarna Gertrude Bell
12/29/1907 San Jose, Santa Clara, CA
8/1972 San Francisco, CA

Father: Alfred Buhrman Bell
Mother: Lona C Sherburne
Husband: Herbert Sydney Stewart

With Memorial Day just around the corner I am going to pay tribute to my maternal grandmother who served in World War II as a Lieutenant in the U. S. Marine Corp. That’s right women in the military. Sometimes we all forget that women played a vital role in the military during war time. My grandmother, Marna G. Bell was a Nurse, stationed a Marine Hospital on the Presidio Army Base in San Francisco, California during World War II. The picture above is with her Marine Corp Cape as she poses on the grounds of the base.

My grandmother was born in 1907 San Jose, California to Alfred Buhrman Bell and Lona C Sherburne. She graduated San Jose High School in 1925 and then attended Santa Clara County Nursing School and graduating September 14, 1927. The picture of the three nurses below was taken in front of the Santa Clara Nurses School, none of these nurses are my grandmother, she had a photo album of her time there with loads of pictures of her fellow student friends. I have a large photo of the graduating class in front of the building, however, haven’t quite figured out how to scan it.

Marna’s father died when she was a baby and her mother died right after her graduation from Nurse training. Her mother was so proud of her, she had always wanted to be a nurse herself, however, her father never allowed it. To see her live this dream was of great comfort to Lona.

In 1930, 22 year old Marna was working in a Private Hospital in San Jose and living with and caring for, her 74 years grandmother Lizzie Sherburne who was very ill at this time. Lizzie passed in 1934 and the house sold and Marna still unmarried moved in with her sister Grace and her husband Otis, in Berkeley, CA. There she got a job as a Private Nurse. This was a time in history when jobs were few and families had to pull together to keep food on the table. Grace’s husband Otis was unemployed during these times and while he was grateful for his young sister-in-laws financial help, he also felt a little put out that he was not the provider of his family. However, times were tough and Otis, accepted Marna financial assistance. Not long after Pearl Harbor was attacked, Marna, like many other nurses, joined the US Armed Forces. Marna was stationed at Marine Hospital at the Presidio Army Base, in San Francisco, CA. She moved into the Nurse’s housing, which was one of the best times in her life and where she made lifelong friends. She attended St. James Episcopal Church, walking distance from Marine Hospital. This is where she met my widower grandfather, Herbert Stewart, and his two pre – teen daughters. They married Easter Sunday, 1944 and moved to the Richmond District of San Francisco, and almost exactly nine months later my mother was born. Below is a picture of my grandmother Marna Gertrude Stewart (Bell) and my mother Anne Marie Stewart on the back porch of their home in San Francisco.

My grandmother always was a nurse, after my mother was born and the war was over, she worked at French Hospital on Geary Street in San Francisco. I remember going to visit her at the hospital with my mom and all the other nurses hugging me and giving me candy. She died August 1972 of Cancer, in her home with my mother caring for her.

Santa Clara Nurse School Cert.3 nurses Santa Clara Nurse CollegeMarna & Anne, back porch



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