Ann Broxmeyer was just 25 — fresh out of nursing school — when the attack on Pearl Harbor occurred, sending the nation to war and more than 16 million Americans into the service.

Broxmeyer, then Ann Matteri, was one of them. Enlisting in the U.S. Navy Nurse Corps in 1943, she served in Honolulu at Aiea Naval Hospital, and rose to the rank of lieutenant.

She died at home in Petaluma on Feb. 24. She was 100.

Born June 7, 1916, in Bodega Bay, raised in Petaluma and a 1934 graduate of Petaluma High School, she returned home after World War II to serve as head nurse at Sonoma County’s former Community Hospital, before acting as director of children’s services for the county’s Department of Health Services. She retired in 1978.

Her experience serving at Aiea Naval Hospital isn’t one she talked about much with family, not even with niece Kathy Ficco, 64, who considered Broxmeyer such a role model she went into nursing herself.

“I think she tried to focus on the happy memories,” Ficco said.

Broxmeyer’s 18-month assignment in Honolulu caring for soldiers injured in the Pacific theater spanned the hospital’s bloodiest period — when more than 5,000 servicemen went there for medical treatment during the battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa between February and June 1945.

She was discharged from the Navy and returned to the mainland in spring 1946 — marrying her fiancé, John Broxmeyer, in May of that year at Petaluma’s St. Vincent de Paul Church. About two years later, she went on to her career with the county.

“She was so respected by the medical community because she was just such an expert at what she did,” Ficco said.

Broxmeyer and her husband never had children, so she treated her many nieces and nephews as her own, helping raise them.

“She was like a second mother to me,” said niece Marie Russell, 61. “You could tell her anything, and she was always so positive. She made you feel like you were special, and that everything was going to be OK.”

Broxmeyer was a member of St. Vincent de Paul Church, the Sonoma County Association of Retired Employees and the Petaluma Woman’s Club, and, said niece Patricia Donnelly, she loved to gamble.

“She was so lucky. In fact, I went last weekend (to Graton Resort & Casino), and I sat down at the machine she liked, and I looked up and said, ‘Auntie Ann, send me some good luck,’ ” Donnelly, 71, said. “And I’ll be darned if I didn’t win a jackpot.”

Broxmeyer’s visitation is set for March 21 from 1 to 7 p.m. at Parent-Sorensen Mortuary and Crematory in Petaluma, with the rosary at 5:30 p.m. Funeral Mass will be March 22 at 1 p.m. at St. Vincent de Paul Church in Petaluma, with entombment at Calvary Catholic Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Hospice of Petaluma or Petaluma Valley Hospital Foundation.

You can reach Staff Writer Christi Warren at 707-521-5205 or christi.warren@pressdemocrat.com.

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