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Cassiani, Helen M. (Helen Mary), 1917-2002



  • Usage: January 27, 1917 - November 3, 1945
  • Usage: November 3, 1945 - November 25, 2002


Helen Mary Cassiani was born on January 27, 1917 to Sarah and Peter Cassiani in Bridgewater, MA. She graduated from Bridgewater High School in 1934 and from the Massachusetts Memorial Hospital School of Nursing in January 1937. After graduation she enrolled in the Red Cross Nursing Service and began running the surgical clinic at the New England Medical Center (frequently referred to as the Boston Dispensary) in Boston, MA.

In January 1940, she was called to join the Army and Navy Nurse Corps but the orders were rescinded due to her mother’s recent heart attack. She was called again in January 1941 and reported to the Camp Edwards Station in Hyannis, MA later that month. The press reported that she was the first woman from Bridgewater to enlist in the Nurse Corps. She volunteered for overseas duty, and in early October 1941 left for the Philippines where she served at the Sternberg General Hospital in Manila, field hospitals in Limay and near Mariveles Harbor.

In April 1942, Helen evacuated to Corregidor. In early May, General Jonathan Wainwright surrendered the area, and Japanese soldiers took Helen and the nurses in her unit to the prisoner of war camp at the University of Santo Tomas where she was interned until February 1945. After the camp was liberated, Helen traveled back to the United States and was placed on temporary duty at her home in Bridgewater, MA for 90 days. After arriving in Boston in March 1945, Helen learned of her mother and one brother’s passing. Some press and Helen’s own memoir attribute her mother’s death to the stress of her daughter’s internment.

After her temporary duty, Helen traveled to the Redistribution Station in Santa Barbara, CA and was reassigned (per her request) to the Army Air Forces School of Aviation Medicine. She graduated from the flight nurse’s course on September 15, 1945.

During her time at the Redistribution Station in Santa Barbara, CA, she met Captain Edward Nestor of the 32nd Field Artillery. Helen and Edward were married on November 3, 1945 in Bridgewater, MA. They had three children, Mark, Peter, and Sarah, and spent the majority of their married life living in Norristown, PA. Helen died on November 25, 2002 and was buried in the Saint Thomas Aquinas Cemetery in Bridgewater, MA.

Found in 1 Collection or Record:

Helen M. Cassiani papers

Identifier: MSS-007

This collection contains the personal papers of Helen M. Cassiani (married name Nestor), predominantly those that concern her military service during World War II and status as a Prisoner of War at the Santo Tomas Internment Camp.

Dates: 1925 - 2002