Like many communities in Kansas, in Colby you will find a memorial to their war dead.  This includes five names from World War I; perhaps nothing stands out until you read the third name, maybe doing a double-take.  It reads:  Etta Coover.

Etta Coover was born at Colby on June 28, 1887.  It sounds like as she grew up she studied for jobs that one might expect a woman to pursue in those times.  She attended Kansas Wesleyan in Salina and pursued the Normal program; in other words, she was going to be a teacher.  Upon graduation she took a job at Gypsum, Kansas, which included being the assistant principal at the high school.  It apparently was short-lived.  In November, 1910, her father passed away, and Etta returned to Colby to be with her mother and sister.

At some point there was a career change.  She went through a nursing program at Seattle General Hospital, and when America went to war, she signed on as a Red Cross nurse.  Enlisting on August 20, 1918, she served two months at Camp Funston on the Fort Riley Military Reservation.  She died on October 16 at Funston, lobar pneumonia given as a cause.  One suspects it was related to the Spanish flu.

Etta was returned to Colby for what was described as an impressive memorial service before burial in a local cemetery.  Her stone has the epitaph from the Gospel of Mark:  “She hath done what she could.”

Etta Coover was one of at least nine nurses from Kansas who died during the Great War.  We’ve discussed Lottie Hollenback earlier:

You may read about the memorial to Thomas County’s war dead here:


Blair Tarr is the Museum Curator of the Kansas State Historical Society. He oversees the three-dimensional collections of the Society, but has special interests in the Civil War, Wichita-made Valentine diners, and Leavenworth's Abernathy Furniture. In the last few years he has also done a lot of cramming on The Great War. He is a past president of the Kansas Museums Association and the Civil War Round Tables of both Kansas City and Eastern Kansas. He is currently a board member of the Heritage League of Greater Kansas City.