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Quance remembers days of service
RUMFORD- To the residents in her building and to all those she comes in contact with, Arva Quance is referred to as “angel-like,” and “a dear angel.” You see, Quance is no stranger to helping and putting others before herself. Arva May Quance will be 85-years-young on May 29 and not a day of her life has gone by that she doesn't remember helping in the “least little bit” that she could.
Being born in Staples, Minnesota, the youngest of four, and being the only girl, much was expected of her and she didn't mind stepping up to the plate. After earning a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing and working in Denver, Colorado, California and Chicago, Illinois, she decided to enlist in the United States Air Force in 1960.
“My three older brothers were in the Army,” noted Quance. “I remember it was a hot day and I felt patriotic. I needed to help, so I moved to enlist.”
Quance served as a registered nurse with the 8th Air Force in the Pacific region during most of her military career. “I was treated like a queen. The men always treated me well, even when I was the officer in charge. They were confused and didn't know how to react, but they always saluted and never undermined me.”
From January 1966 until July of 1967, Quance was on duty in the operating room at Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines. Receiving, on average, two plane loads of wounded troops each day, she saw plenty of trauma.
“It was such a hard time,” noted Quance through tears. “Young boys being brought in with half their limbs missing, just hurt really bad. Those were tough days. Working for 12, sometimes 16 hour shifts, it took its' toll.”
Quance remembered being deathly ill during the night and, being as short handed as they were, she had to get up the next morning to go to work. “I had to do it. I couldn't just stay out.”
The unit eventually was blessed with more medical help, making their shifts only eight hours. Quance recalled that it seemed like they were on vacation with a regular shift of just eight hours.
Quance attained the rank of major and was discharged in July of 1971.
Upon her re-entry into civilian life, she thought she wanted to live in New Mexico and while looking for a job and a place to live, realized it wasn't what she wanted. “I found a job, but just couldn't find a rent. So, I packed up my dog and my belongings in my car and headed to Maine. I had friends that headed that way and I knew I didn't have anything to lose.”
Quance drove to the northeast in January of 1972 and upon arriving hit a severe snowstorm that lasted for three days and began second guessing her decision. “I had never seen so much snow in my life. It was just nuts.”
Quance took a job as an operating room nurse supervisor position at Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston and two years later accepted an assignment in Africa as a missionary nurse.
She spent 22 months treating young and middle aged patients with multiple diseases. She was stricken with Rockie Mountain Spotted Fever and was hospitalized. The villages were diseased with malaria.
At one point, Quance remembered walking to the cathedral with her two roommates. “We got jumped by three men, my gosh they couldn't have been 17 or 18. They had a cane knife. They were yelling at us and telling the one to cut her. We gave them our purses, but they still cut her. It was pretty scary. She had to have stitches, but she was okay.”
While in Africa, Quance made many friends with the locals and went on many hikes, getting a lay of the land. She has photo albums with many black and white pictures of the shy, dark faces. Some smiling and some not sure what to think and hanging back.
Quance remembers her time serving in the military and as a missionary with many fond memories of the people she met and the places she visited. She now spends her time cheering for the Red Sox and Patriots, and caring for her neighbors in Concord Apartments.
And, don't forget to wish Arva a happy birthday on Tuesday.