A daughter of Block Island leaves a piece of history

Fri, 07/17/2020 - 10:00am

A pristine, beautifully tailored Army Air Corps nurse’s uniform belonging to the late Antoinette Mott Coleman has been donated to the Block Island Historical Society.

Coleman’s daughter, Marie Crouch, presented the uniform to Historical Society Board member Sharon Lehman. Coleman passed away on April 1, 2020 at the age of 99.

According to a brief biography Crouch also gave to the Historical Society, Coleman, known as “Toni,” was “born on Dec. 26, 1920 on Block Island. Toni was the oldest of five children born to Henry and Marie Mott. At the age of 18 she left Block Island to attend Rhode Island School of Nursing. She joined the Red Cross before graduating, and then went on to serve as a nurse in the United States Army” beginning in November 1942.

“In the Spring of 1945 she silently marched through the pitch black dark night in San Diego, with one hand on the shoulder of the Army Corps Nurse ahead of her. She was one of the 25 nurses who boarded the U.S. Gen. H.B. Freeman unaware of where they were headed — their destination was into the thick of the Pacific theater in World War II.”

Toni later ended up serving in a primitive hospital in the jungle in British-ruled India. She married George Cornelius Coleman in 1947 and raised their three children in Connecticut.

The biography stated that “Toni continued to advocate for Veterans throughout her life, earning a Certificate of Continuous Membership marking her 50 years of involvement with American Legion Post 83.

About island life, Toni once said, “Island life is not for the faint-hearted.” Her biography states, “She was a strong, resilient woman who lived her life with integrity and humility. She was an inspiration to many, she knew the value of hard work and living life to the fullest.

Bob Champagne-Willis, President of the Block Island Historical Society, said, “The Historical Society is extremely appreciative of Marie Crouch for thinking of us in making this generous donation. Her mother, Antoinette (Mott) Coleman, served our nation in World War II as a nurse, and her uniform is now part of the Historical Society’s collection. In these days where our attention is focused on health care, it is important to honor those Block Islanders who contributed to the health profession over the ages.”