Oldest Living Native American WWII Veteran Reflects On Service, Life, And The WACs
You’re going to love this woman and her story.
It involves a lifetime of service and independence of character. Her name is Julie Kabance and she is a member of the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation.
She is the oldest surviving Native American WWII veteran at 108 years of age.
For Kabance, that noble age is no deterrent to living life to the full. She is given to doing calisthenics and walking every day and living independently in her own home in St. Mary’s, Kansas. That is, up until recently. Her leg started to bother her and she has been moved to a nursing home in Wamego, Kansas. Consistent with her character, she is not comfortable with the move and the loss of her independence, but is taking it in stride.
She says, “When you’ve lived in a barracks with 150 women, you can get used to anything.”
Kabance was born in 1911 and was old enough when WWI came along to remember the rationing of food and other things. At the age of 33 she joined the Women’s Army Corps on March 17, 1943, St. Patrick’s Day. She was sent to Fort Des Moines and worked as a general office worker to replace men so that they could go off to fight. Apparently, that was not well accepted by the male soldiers at that time and they were always on the WAC’s case.
After the war was over, Kabance thought about making the Army a career, but her mother was ill and needed care. She was the 11th of 12 children. She had two other sisters, but one was married and the other was too young at the time, so she went home and cared for her mother in the last months of her life. After her mother died she went back to work for the military as a civilian at the Air Force base at Topeka, Kansas, until it was closed.
Before joining the Army she had attended the Haskell Indian Nations University, then known as the Haskell Institute. When Topeka AFB closed she attended classes at the University of Kansas for a semester, for accounting, but was unable to continue due to a lack of money.
Kabance worked most of her adult life at military installations from Kansas to Washington State and the East Coast. During that time she also volunteered countless hours of service to the VA and the Catholic Church. She says cheerfully that her faith is very important to her.
It is mind-boggling to think of having lived for 108 years. There are very few among us at any time who can remember an entire century of life and all the history that unfolds over that length of time. Kabance’s intellect is keen and clear. This writer imagines that it would be an incredible experience to sit with this woman and to listen to her life story.
She knew life on the reservation in the early 20th century, a farming life, and a long life enriched by her faith. But when asked about her secret for her longevity, she demures and says she really doesn’t have one. But thinking further, she says it may be because of her independence. She says she never married, so she could always do what she wanted to do. Gotta love this woman so full of life at 108 to which she adds, “109 in August.”
Kabance says she wants to live to 112 or 114 to break some records.
The Veterans Site sends its greetings and its deepest respect to Julie Kabance. In her we see a noble life well lived. May she break those records. Thank you for your service to God and country. We are honored to have you among us.