WWII veteran, CN citizen dead at 100 | People

OWASSO – A Cherokee Nation citizen who served her country during World War II died on April 29 at the age of 100.

Winifred “Freddie” Dudley, of Owasso, had served as part of the groundbreaking Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps during the war. In August 2022, Dudley was honored with the tribe’s Cherokee Medal of Patriotism for her service.

“She was a proud Cherokee woman,” her son, Wayne Dudley, said.

In a statement, CN Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. described Dudley as “a special lady who touched all our lives during her visits to Cherokee Nation.”

“The Cherokee Nation is grateful for her sacrifices during World War II and stepping in to aid in a time of need, which is the Cherokee way,” he said.

Dudley was raised on her family’s allotment near Westville.

“My great-grandmother came over on the Trail of Tears,” she said in 2022. “I’m just thankful to be part of the Cherokee Nation.”

In 1944, during the height of World War II, Dudley enlisted in the newly-formed Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps – later the Women’s Army Corps – which officially granted military status to the women who volunteered.

According to the U.S. Army, the purpose of the WAAC and later WAC was to make available “to the national defense the knowledge, skill and special training of women of the nation.”

“The mission of the Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps was to provide support to the Army by releasing men from administrative duties to serve in combat,” a historical recap from the U.S. Department of Interior states. “From the beginning, the WAAC bill met opposition. At this time, most women did not work outside the home, and a woman serving in uniform was unfathomable.”

In total there were 150,000 members of the Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps. During her nearly two-year stint in service, Dudley was stationed at several U.S. Army bases across the country, including in Texas, Ohio, Michigan, Georgia and New Hampshire. She served in many capacities such as a clerical worker, a military postal worker and a chaplain’s assistant.

Dudley, whose name was Winifred Whelchel at the time, was discharged approximately a month after the war ended in September 1945.

“When the war was over, she returned home on leave for a couple of weeks and ran into my dad (Jess “Jay” Floyd Dudley), who was also born and raised in Westville,” Wayne Dudley said in a 2022 interview with the Cherokee Phoenix. “They had known each other, but not well, before that. They met each other on the main street and two weeks later were married.”

A year older than Winifred, Jay Dudley died in 2016 at the age of 95. He had served in the Army Air Corps during WWII and earned a Bronze Star for his involvement in the Normandy Invasion and Battle of the Bulge. They had been married for 70 years before his passing.

Together, they had four children, 12 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Visitation for Winifred Dudley was scheduled for 4-7 p.m. May 4 and 5 at Floral Haven Funeral Home in Broken Arrow. A celebration-of-life service was set for 2 p.m., May 6 at Floral Haven. Interment will be held at a later date. 

Memorial contributions may be made to Ballard Bible Church in Watts or Mend Medical Services of Tulsa. To view Dudley’s full obituary, visit floralhaven.com.

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