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Elsie Seetoo

Elsie Chin Yuen Seetoo was born as Elsie Chin in Stockton, California in 1918. When the Depression set in, she and her family moved to Xinhui in the Guangdong province of China for most of her childhood. She entered nurse’s training at Queen Mary Hospital in Hong Kong and graduated in 1942. She walked 700 miles from Hong Kong to Guiyang to join the Chinese Red Cross Medical Relief Corps. Stationed in Kunming, in 1943 she was part of a medical service training unit that went to Camp Ramgarh in India to train Chinese soldiers as medical orderlies. In 1944, she joined the U.S. Army Nurse Corps, commissioned as a First Lieutenant. She was stationed with the 14th Air Force as a member of the Air Service Command. She continued her service, assigned to the 95th Station Hospital Kunming and Chengdu, and with the 172nd General Hospital in Shanghai. She returned to the United States in February 1946 and was discharged from the Army.

After the war, she attended Women's College of the University of North Carolina for her bachelor's degree in nursing. She married Joseph Yuen, who worked on electrical systems for satellites at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C. Together they raised their family there. Elsie has four children, seven grandchildren, and eight great-grandchildren. Elsie became a translator of Chinese medical literature into English, most notably translating The Barefoot Doctors Manual, a reference for Chinese folk medicine. She went on to become a technical publication writer-editor at the Naval Medical Center and National Institutes of Health, retiring in the mid-1980’s. After Joe’s death, she remarried Ben Seetoo, who died in the late 1990’s. Elsie currently resides in a life-care community outside of Washington, D.C., recently celebrating her 100th birthday with family and friends.


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