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I was an American Red Cross girl who ran an enlisted man's club in Rome and kept a distraught GI from killing our medic. We were the only two on the third floor of a big old building in Rome. When I came on duty, a distraught medic had a knife at his throat. We were the only people on the third floor, and the medic yelled at me. "Help me, Leona. He is going to kill me." I didn't know what to do, as we were the only two on that floor. I was going on duty for our Red Cross man, who was supposed to be in charge. I said a prayer: "Please God, tell me what to do. I don't know what to do." This voice came back and was very calm and said don't act afraid, and right then I found out I didn't act afraid and I asked him what was the matter and I would help. I ran the snack bar, and I invited him to come to the snack bar. He said, "You will turn me in to the police," and I said, "Trust me, I just want to help you." He said, "All right." I took him through a dark lane where we made the donuts and I treated him and talked to him very calmly and he knew he could trust me. I saved a life.

I also served in Algeria. I was a university teacher in Minnesota when someone recommended me for the Red Cross, and I got on a troop ship with no idea where I would go, for 11 days, and ended up in Algeria after having lived my whole life in Minnesota. Quite a different world. I married an Air Force officer in Rome and met the Pope twice and got permission to marry since I was not Catholic. I told the Pope that the people in Minnesota loved him so. On my wedding day the Pope was addressing the world, and they told me I could not have electricity for my wedding since it had to be saved for the Pope's address, and I told them to tell the Pope the girl from Minnesota only wanted music at her wedding. I received permission from the Pope for an organ. My wedding dress was made by [Fernanda] Gattinoni, who designed all the costumes for War and Peace. I had quite a wedding. My honeymoon was on the Isle of Capri at an Air Force rest camp.

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  October 26, 2011
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