Chelsea woman’s life and service to country

Published 4:30 pm Monday, July 26, 2010

After serving as a World War II Army nurse in Australia and the Philippines, and nursing in several northern states and areas of Alabama, Evelyn Ruth (Blackerby) Spraitzar has returned to her Chelsea roots.

The 90-year-old now resides in Vestavia Hills, but she maintains family property in Chelsea. She and son Curtis check on the property regularly, she said. In 2005, they received a beautification award from the City of Chelsea.

Mitzi Pugh and Maxine Grace, who live near the property, were guests at Spraitzar’s 90th birthday celebration and ceremony honoring her service to our country. The affair was held July 12 in the Aldridge House at Aldridge Botanical Gardens in Hoover. Also attending from Chelsea were Mayor S. Earl Niven, his wife June, and Juanita and Wayne Champion, as well as Spraitzar’s two Chelsea cousins, Katie Holcombe Griffith and Thomas Holcombe.

Niven presented to Spraitzar a certificate proclaiming July 12 Evelyn Ruth (Blackerby) Spraitzar Day in the city of Chelsea, and a cookbook containing snippets of her family’s history.

Other presentations were from St. Vincent Foundation, Redstone Arsenal, office of Governor Bob Riley, and the Birmingham office of Senator Spencer Bachus.

Guests received a booklet on the life of the honoree. Several shared memories of fun they had in Chelsea with her family. Numerous old photographs were available for viewing.

Spraitzar’s great-great-grandfather Tarlton Farris Holcombe, a Baptist clergyman, was founder of Liberty Church and served as pastor for around 40 years. Her grandfather Boardman Holcombe, conveyed a right-of-way for the railroad through Chelsea. Her parents were Scott Wilson Blackerby, son of Judson and Olivia (Adams) Blackerby, and Carolyn “Carrie” Eunice Blackerby, daughter of Boardman and Nancy (Spearman) Holcombe.

Spraitzar, and twin sister Helen, were born near Hartselle. After living in Homewood and Bessemer, the family moved to Chelsea in 1937, around the time she entered St. Vincent’s School of Nursing.

“I would come from Birmingham and spend weekends at Chelsea,” she said.

But when the war broke out in 1941, she volunteered in the U.S. Army Nurse Corps. One of her most memorable experiences was a secret mission where she met Gen. Douglas MacArthur and provided medical support for his wife and son aboard a Norwegian fruit ship, which took them from Australia to the Philippines to join the general.

It was always his mother’s dream to one day live on the Chelsea properties, Curtis Spraitzar said, but it would not be practical at this time.