On a perfect summer day with the sun shining brightly, numerous cars were traveling across Kansas to Our Lady of the Snows, a small secluded church nestled inside the Prairie Band Potawatomi Reservation. Members of the community and folks from as far as Kansas City gathered to join PBPN tribal member Julia Kabance in the celebration of her 106 years of life.
A petite and lively lady, Kabance is the oldest member of the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation, one of a handful of remaining Native American Veterans from WWII and a life member of American Legion We-Ta-Se Post 410.
She was born on the Prairie Band Potawatomi Reservation in 1910, the eleventh of 12 children born to Frank and Mary Kabance.
She began serving in the Women’s Army Corps in 1943 during World War II and was stationed at McChord Air Force Base, Washington in the Adjutant Corps. She became a disabled Veteran by 1945, due to the loss of her hearing.
At the birthday party hosted by the American Legion We-Ta-Se Post 410, Kabance received a few noteworthy gifts. The first was a beautifully beaded medallion on behalf of the PBPN Tribal Council. The second was a lapel pin of a small set of dog tags presented on behalf of VA’s Women’s Health Program. Accompanying the pin was a framed photo of Kabance from her days in service with well wishes from the staff of the Topeka VA hospital written on the photo matting.
“I sure don’t look like that anymore,” as she looked at her photo and gently laughed.
In addition to her health care, Kabance has a strong connection with the Topeka VA hospital. She volunteered there for 17 years – serving her fellow Veterans in the medical center while representing both the American Legion in nursing services and the Disabled American Veterans is the physical medicine and rehabilitation services.
After receiving her gifts, Kabance provided an eloquent narrative regarding her life. She talked about how gratifying volunteer work has been for her and the patients at Colmery-O’Neil VA Medical Center in Topeka. She encouraged everyone to remember and visit their elders. Then, it was time for cake and ice cream.
About the author: Michelle Simon is a member of the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation.