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Helen Scott Hay

164 copyOn July 4, 1935, a bench was dedicated during the Helen Scott Hay Memorial Service held at the old hospital at the intersection of Third and Washington Street.

Helen Scott Hay is Carroll County's most famous daughter, born Jan. 5, 1869, five miles north of Lanark in Cherry Grove Township.

The daughter of George Hay, a Scotsman who migrated from Aberdeen, Scotland to Carroll County, she moved with her parents to Kansas as a child but they soon returned to Savanna. Her father was an organizer and first cashier of the Savanna State Bank.

Helen attended Savanna schools and graduated from high school in 1886, taught school for a time, then entered Northwestern University from which she was graduated with Phi Beta Kappa honors.

She took postgraduate work at the University of Chicago, then entered the Illinois Training School for Nurses, graduating in 1895. She was the pride and despair of the class of 95' keeping all "on their toes" according to Helen W. Kelly, a classmate. She never complained and was always placed where responsibility was greatest.

After 11 years of varied and responsible positions she returned to her alma mater's practice hospital, the great Cook County hospital, as director for six years, resigning in 1911. Attending the meeting to form the Illinois State Nursing Association, she spoke with prophetic vision of the potential results of that meeting. She organized the West Suburban hospital school for nurses at Oak Park.

At the outbreak of World War I, she assisted in the selection of the nurses for 10 units of the "Mercy Mission" composed of 125 nurses and 30 doctors for the relief ship "Red Cross" sailing September 12, 1914, as director of the nursing personnel.

At Falmouth, England the units each numbering 10 nurses and three to six doctors separated and Miss Hay went with two units to St. Petersburg, Russia where they were received by Marie Freodorovna, mother of the czar.

When the US entered the war Miss Hay was called home. She immediately entered the nursing services of the American Red Cross, Washington DC, first as director of home hygiene and care of the sick, later assisted in establishing an army school of nursing.

In October 1918 she was appointed head nurse in the newly organized American Red Cross commission in the Balkans sailing shortly after the armistice. She worked as head nurse one year, then as director of American nursing in Europe with headquarters in Paris.

Her duties included supervision of American Red Cross nursing in the Baltic provinces, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Austria, Hungary and the Balkans She also oversaw the program of child welfare preparing nurses to take over that work at the withdrawal of the American Red Cross.

Miss Hay's service in the American Red Cross. ended June 1922 when the program was completed. She had won 14 medals and citations including the Florence Nightingale, highest Red Cross Award, and medals from kings and queens of the Balkan countries.

Returning to Savanna, she cared for her brother during his last illness. During the 10 years prior to her death, despite failing health, she took an active part in civic movements, her church, clubs, the local Red Cross and American Legion.

Her numerous acts of charity and kindness were remembered by her friends and acquaintances during the last two months of her life when she enjoyed their visits returning those previously made by her as long as able.

On the death of Miss Hay in 1932 a booklet was prepared by Rev. D.W. Barclay, Presbyterian minister of Savanna containing her story and nearly 30 tributes from her friends and co-workers, local, national and international. Miss Hay was buried at Oakville, Salem Township, preferring to be with her own family and friends in the beautiful surroundings they dearly loved rather than at Arlington National Cemetery, Washington.

Helen had two sisters, Elizabeth, who married Arthur P. Woodruff of Savanna, and Rachel (Johnson) later of Pasadena, Calif. Helen Woodruff, wife of Judge Marvin Burt, Freeport, is a niece. Her brother John and her parents are also buried at Oakville.

This plaque is located in front of the Savanna Library and the Savanna Museum also has an exhibit on Helen Scott Hay.