A beloved Chickasaw elder and decorated military veteran was laid to rest in Sand Springs, Oklahoma on February 26.
Beaulah Shavney was born April 2, 1922, in Marlow, Oklahoma, the eldest of six children born to O.L. and Sylvia Pope. She died February 22, 2014. Her grandmother, Emily Gibson, was a full-blood Chickasaw.
Shavney was educated at Chilocco Indian School in far northern Oklahoma. She joined the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) in 1943 earning the World War II Victory Medal, Good Conduct Medal, the WAC Service Medal and the American Campaign Medal. She was honorably discharged in December 1945 obtaining a rank equivalent to sergeant.
She met and married Dick Shavney, a veteran and member of a tank battalion who served in the Philippines. They were in uniform when they married at Vine Grove, Kentucky, in December 1944. After his discharge in 1946, the couple resided in Arizona and New York before finally settling in Sand Springs. Mr. Shavney died in 1968.
Shavney was a charter member of the WAC and traveled to Washington, D.C. in 2008 to partake in the Celebration of the Women in Military Service Memorial.
“I felt like it was my duty,” Mrs. Shavney said in a 2012 Profiles of the Chickasaw Nation interview. “It was a good feeling to put that uniform on.”
Shavney took pride in seeing women serving in the military in expanded capacities.
“They are really doing a great job,” she said.
As a high school freshman, she left her family and entered Chilocco.
“I really liked it there,” Shavney recalled in a 2009 Chickasaw Times article. “At first you are homesick, but then you make friends and get into the routine.”
She lived in the girls’ dorm year-round, marched to and from class and performed her chores “the right way!”
“We would clean and scrub and, if it wasn’t good enough, we would do it again,” she said. “I really think being there prepared me for the military.”
She graduated from Chilocco in 1940 and moved back to her family, which had relocated to Arizona. In Arizona, she attended and graduated from Gregg Business School. She took her new clerical skills and entered the civilian workforce.
Then, World War II erupted.
“I remember (recruiters) telling us about the Army and getting an education and I thought that sounded like something I wanted to do,” Shavney said in the interview.
Her application was delayed because she was underweight. She made it in, she said, by eating “bananas and cream for a month!”
In May 1943, she began basic training in Des Moines, Iowa. She became a WAC member. The Corps had been created in 1942. She was stationed at Fort Knox, Kentucky, where her clerical skills landed her a position as secretary to the commanding officer of the Army Clerical School. She and one other lady were the only females at the school.
“Things were really great there,” Shavney said in the interview. Approximately 150,000 women joined the WAC during the war and fulfilled noncombat duties that freed up male soldiers for front-line duty.
WAC women were the first females to serve in the military aside from nurses.
Following the death of her husband, Shavney continued to raise the couple’s three children and worked in Sand Springs. In 2002, she moved to Ada, Oklahoma, and became involved at the Chickasaw Nation senior site where she volunteered. She was blessed with 10 grandchildren.
Shavney said in her 2012 Profiles of the Chickasaw Nation interview that Chickasaw women “are special. I have to do my best because I’m Chickasaw.”
Her daughter, Dr. Teresa M. Shavney, was Oklahoma City’s first female surgeon. Dr. Shavney was named the 2009 Chickasaw Nation Dynamic Woman of the Year.