Mary Rose Harrington Nelson, 85, a Red Cross volunteer and former Navy nurse who was interned for three years in the Philippines during World War II, died of respiratory ailments June 17 at home in McLean.
Mrs. Nelson began her volunteer work for the Red Cross in the 1950s. For more than 40 years, she did volunteer nursing duty in Fairfax schools, worked at Red Cross bloodmobiles and scheduled bloodmobile volunteer workers. She helped administer the first polio vaccines given to school children. In 1997, she received the Outstanding Volunteer Award from the Red Cross.
She was born in Sioux City, Iowa, where she attended nursing school at St. Joseph's Mercy Hospital. In 1937, she joined the Navy nurses corps, and in 1941, she was assigned to the Philippines. When Japanese forces seized the islands in the early days of World War II, she was interned with other U.S. civilians, initially at a Catholic school that had been converted into a prison facility. Later, she was held at the Los Banos internment facility, about 30 miles southeast of Manila. There she met her future husband, T. Page Nelson Sr., a U.S. Treasury Department official who also had been interned.
He had injured an ankle while preparing for an internees' track meet. She was doing nursing duty at the internees camp and had been asked to treat the injury. They fell in love, and two months after the camp was liberated in February of 1945, they were married, on Friday, April 13, 1945, in San Diego.
Mrs. Nelson accompanied her husband to Washington and had lived in this area since then. He died in March.
She was a member of St. John's Catholic Church in McLean, where she was a past president of the women's council, founder of the Thrift Shop and a teacher of religious classes and where she served on the Altar Society.
She testified before congressional committees on issues related to women's roles in the military. Navy publications had interviewed her and had written about her wartime experiences as an internee. She received a Bronze Star.
Mrs. Nelson was a guest speaker before veterans groups and participated in the dedication of the Women's War Memorial.
Survivors include four children, Thomas P. Nelson Jr. of Reston, William M. Nelson and Ann A. Nelson, both of McLean, and Mary Page Nelson of Washington; six grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.