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Marie-Louise Habets
(January, 1905 - May, 1986) Belgium

Marie-Louise Habets

Ex-nun, nurse


From 1927 to 1944 Marie-Louise lived behind convent walls, trained as a nurse she spent several years among the natives of Africa. After her return to Belgium she is witness to the Nazi invasion and is drawn into the under- ground. Feeling that she cannot serve God because of her hatred for the enemy that has killed her father, she decides to leave the Order.

In the fall of 1944 she joins a British First-Aid Auxiliary that gives aid to the wounded soldiers during the Battle of the Bulge. While the Auxiliary is in Antwerp, bombs were dropped on the town killing 3,000 persons and wounding 7,000 more. The nurses waded through blood for days, picking up arms and legs and even heads found blocks away. After V-E Day her unit was dispatched to Germany to bring back Belgian nationals from the concentration camps.

From there she signed up with the UNRRA to provide nursing care to the millions of refugees still left behind in Germany. In the UNRRA Heidelberg headquarters the team, (consisting of French, Canadians, American, and Beglium personnel) is assigned to Wildflecken- with a vague description - It is located in the northeastern corner of Bavaria and containing approximately 2,000 DP's of Polish origin.

After 12 days of travel thru the ruins of Germany, the team arrived to find 20,000 DP's packed into 60 blockhouses spread over a forested mountain that covered some 15 square miles. The members of Team #1050 rolled up their shirt-sleeves and took on the enormous tasks of feeding, clothing, housing, and healing the population.

In the fall of 1948, Marie-Louise was promoted to Area Chief Nurse by the IRO (the organization that replaced the UNRRA). She was transferred to Würzburg to take over a newly consolidated area that still had some 65,000 DP's living in seventy-three widely scattered installations. As the work of the IRO started to wind down, Marie-Louise had no desire to return to her hometown of Belgium.

She applied for an American visa. Her sponsor to the United States was Kathryn Hulme. After the visa was granted Marie-Louise visited her relatives one last time in Belgium. She told them of her nursing career and her numerous trips accompanying displaced persons world-wide to and from countries like Mombosa, Capetown, Colombo, Aden, Athens, Australia, and Poland; and her flight back from Australia aboard The Flying Tiger Line alone with its American crew.

Marie-Louise and Kathryn sailed from Rotterdam on the S.S. Noordam and arrived in the U.S. in February 1951. They settled in Arizona for a while, Marie-Louise worked in a local hospital among the Navajo patients. From there they moved to California. Marie-Louise served as a private nurse to Audrey Hepburn when she was injured by a horse while filming "The Unforgiven." Eventually Marie-Louise Habets and her lover Kathryn Hulme moved to Hawaii and settled in Kapaa, Kauai.


Sources: Undiscovered Country -The Nun's Story -The Wild Place all three by Kathryn Hulme

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