For 40 years, Emily Simmonds' unclaimed ashes had lain forgotten in an unmarked grave in Pomona, Calif., but on Sept. 28, the San Gabriel Pomona Valley Chapter of the American Red Cross helped the world remember Simmonds' heroism when it unveiled a memorial monument commemorating Simmonds’ life.
This memorial monument pays tribute to the heroism of Emily Simmonds, a Red Cross volunteer nurse who saved hundreds of lives and helped thousands survive the terror of World War I. (Photo by Alan Beadle/American Red Cross)
The chapter honored the Red Cross nurse who saved hundreds of lives and helped thousands survive the terror of World War I in Central Europe during a solemn ceremony at the Pomona Valley Memorial Park last Thursday. Simmonds began her Red Cross work caring for war victims under horrid conditions in crowded hospitals in Serbia.
Chapter Interim CEO Jack French, who led the ceremony, paid tribute to Simmonds' courage and heroism, saying that her selfless acts should not be forgotten.
Other participants included Rev. Peter Jovanovic of St. Sava Serbian Orthodox Church, who offered a spiritual remembrance of Simmonds, and Scotland-based author Louise Miller, who started the crusade to ensure Simmonds' heroism is remembered. Miller is writing a book about Simmonds and other women who toiled under insufferable conditions to save lives during WWI. She flew from Scotland to attend the event in Pomona and paid for the memorial monument.
Simmonds, who spent some of her last years in Pasadena and Chino, Calif., was born in England. She was a 26-year-old nurse on vacation in Paris when World War I broke out in the Balkans in 1914. Instead of returning home, she went to London and joined the first group of American Red Cross relief workers to leave England for Serbia.
For three months she worked long hours under horrific conditions in a military hospital in Kragujevac in northern Serbia, treating victims of one of the first battles of the war. This was how Simmonds began her many years of volunteer work for the Red Cross.
Joining the collaborative effort to honor Simmonds was French's wife, Patti, a Pasadena-based writer, who has done additional research on the life and work of Simmonds and helped organize the event.
The memorial, covered by the local media, including the Inland Valley Bulletin, San Gabriel Valley Tribune and radio station KFWB, was followed by a luncheon and a brief program at the American Red Cross Regional Blood Center in Pomona.
Nimfa Rueda is the Director of Public Affairs for the San Gabriel Pomona Valley Chapter of the American Red Cross in Pasadena, Calif.