The first woman to reach flag rank in the U.S. Navy, Rear Admiral Alene Duerk was born in Defiance, Ohio, in 1920. Duerk received her training at the Toledo Hospital School of Nursing before enlisting in the Nurse Corps of the U.S. Naval Reserve in 1943. She served during WWII on the USS Benevolence, treating the sick and wounded brought back from Third Fleet operations and attacks against Japan.
After the war, Duerk attended Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, where she received her bachelor of science degree in ward management and teaching, medical and surgical nursing. She was ordered to return to active naval service in 1951, transferred to the U.S. Navy in 1953 and advanced to the rank of captain in 1967 before becoming the Navy’s first female admiral in 1972.
After completing her service, she became a director of both the United Services Life Insurance Company and the Visiting Nurses Association and Foundation in Central Florida.