So many times we hear of the “Great Generation” and of those individuals who grew up during the deep abyss of the Great Depression and later made significant contributions to the war efforts either in the Pacific or on the European continent. Many of them continued to serve after the war, trying to improve the lives shattered from their losses.
While much attention still extends itself to the sailors who sailed the seas thousands of miles from the U.S. shorelines, the soldiers and Marines who trudged across miles of land— sometimes on their bellies — on onknown or uncharted islands or the aviators who risked their lives dropping bombs on strategic targets, others not wearing the military uniform also made invaluable contributions to making peoples’ lives better.
An unsung hero
Lorene (Sutton) Kamps, who was born in Fallon in 1923 and graduated from Churchill County High School in 1940, emerged as such a person, an unsung hero who was both an inspiration to the people she helped and to her two daughters who drew inspiration from her.
Navy wife, Red Cross volunteer, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother came home for a final time Wednesday as a small gathering of family, friends and Red Cross volunteers remembered the woman who spent many unselfish hours helping others.
Although Kamps died in November 2011, her daughters — Sue (Barr) Kamps and Kathy Jenkins — wanted to bring her ashes back to Fallon to coincide with Mother’s Day and the 30th anniversary of their father’s death in May 1983. After a memorial service at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church, mourners drove to the Fallon Cemetery for interment of her mother’s remains next to her father. Lt. Cmdr. Richard Wiese, chaplain at Naval Air Station Fallon, conducted the graveside service.
“They’re back together now. I hope they’re not fighting,” said Kamps, the youngest daughter, smiling,
Like her mother, Kamps was born in Fallon in 1957 when her father was between assignments, and the family stayed with her grandmother. Remembering her mother took on a special meaning Wednesday when Kamps, who now lives in Littleton, Colo., reflected on her mother’s accomplishments.
“Lorene was an amazing mom, always full of life. She would walk into a room, and it would brighten,” Kamps said. “She was always upbeat, always had a smile.”
Kamps explained how her mother grew up in Fallon and after graduation, worked in Reno before returning to Naval Auxiliary Air Station Fallon as a secretary for the Red Cross during the latter part of World War II.
“She said the sailors looked too cute and mom found one,” Kamps said, drawing some laughter.
She married Lt. Cmdr. Harold Kamps, a Navy pilot, on Nov. 3, 1945, and they later moved to Hawaii where her first daughter, Kathy, was born.
“Being a Navy wife is tough enough, but he did not know what it was like to be married to a Red Cross volunteer,” Kamps said of her parents. “When she was called, she went.”
The Navy sent the family to many different locations including Norfolk, Va., and later to Houston, where her father retired in 1964, and Lorene Kamps became a Red Cross volunteer.
“Mom kept doing whatever people wanted,” Kamps said. “Red Cross was the most important part of mom’s life. She was a true patriot, and she and dad made a great pair.”
During her years associated with the Red Cross, Lorene Kamps received numerous awards and recognitions and earned special awards from the Secretary of the Navy and President Harry S. Truman in 1946.
“She was one of the unique types of mothers in that era,” Kamps reflected. “She was a tough mother and taught lessons. She never quit thinking about others, and her love was just as great. She saw other people suffering and attended to their needs.”
AN inspiration to others
Likewise, local Red Cross volunteers who attended Wednesday’s memorial service also saw Lorene Kamps’ strong side.
“She formed a long trail of dedication and service,” said Sue Kennedy. “She and her family exemplified this. She has touched so many people.”
Kennedy said Lorene Kamps gave her life to the Red Cross and to her family and considered it an honor to be in Fallon to serve the Kamps family.
Another Red Cross volunteer from Reno, Gwen Jensen, also said Lorene Kamps inspired her and inspired others.
After Lorene Kamps retired and then later moved in with Jenkins and her family in Shawnee, Kan., Sue Kamps would see her mother periodically; however, the reality of her mother not being alive caused Kamps to reflect: “I wish she was still here because I wish to talk.”
Jenkins also increased her knowledge of the Red Cross when she attended college by working two summers as an intern in Houston. She also met many of her mother’s friends.
“Giving of herself is definitely true,” Jenkins remembered of the summer venture.
According to Jenkins, her mother was a perfect military wife when it came to moving and to adapting to a new home. Jenkins said her mother always joined the wives’ club and quickly became known as an organizer.
“Lorene Kamps lived with her eldest daughter for six years before a series of three mini-strokes affected her. Jenkins noticed a gradual decline in her mother’s health. In 2004 for safety reasons, Jenkins and Kamps placed their mother in a nursing home because she was in the developing stages of Alzheimer’s.
“I spent time with her and gradually said goodbye to her,” Jenkins said, describing the final years of her mother’s life until her mother passed away on Nov. 19, 2011.
Sue Kamps said it was her mother’s wish to return to Fallon and be buried next to her husband. Kamps coordinated the memorial service with both Holy Trinity Episcopal Church and the Red Cross out of Reno.
Over the years Kamps said she inherited many of her mother’s traits.
“Mom was structured, disciplined. I emulate her because I am organized,” she explained. “Mom was very unselfish, never talked about herself, never heard any griping. I admired her so much but I never considered her my friend but as a mom. I am very old fashioned. Friends are friends but moms are forever. We never sat on the edge of the bed and conducted silly talk. She was a role model, but we had our moments and worked through them.”
Kamps considered her mother as a strong woman and out of respect, Kamps said she never wanted to embarrass her. Not having their mother alive, though, remains a major loss for both daughters.
“She loved to entertain and meet new people,” Kamps pointed out. “This is a generation we have lost … a patriot for father, a humanitarian for mother.”
“Red Cross was the most important part of mom’s life. She was a true patriot, and she and dad made a great pair.”