Alene Bertha Duerk was born in Defiance, Ohio on March 29, 1920 to Albert and Emma Duerk.
She had nursing training at Toledo (Ohio) Hospital School of Nursing and received her diploma in 1941. After receiving her commission on January 23, 1943, she was appointed as an ensign in the Nurse Corps of the U.S. Naval Reserve. After receiving her commission, she was assigned in March 1943 as a Ward Nurse at Naval Medical Center Portsmouth, Portsmouth, Virginia. In the following year, in January 1944 she transferred to the Naval Hospital, Bethesda, Maryland. She then join the USS Benevolence (AH-13), anchored off Eniwetok, to receive the sick and wounded brought from the Third Fleet operations against Japan in May 1945 and later again during the Third Fleets’s last strikes against the enemy. After the cessation of hostilities the Benevolence remained in Japanese waters, off Yokosuka, to assist processing liberated Allied POWs and returned home in late 1945 to the United States with wounded servicemen. Back in the U.S., Duerk was assigned to the Naval Hospital, Great Lakes, Illinios and continued her duty, from January 1946 to June 1946 when she was released from active naval service.
She attended the Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing at Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio, from which she received the degree of Bachelor of Science in Ward Management and Teaching, Medical and Surgical Nursing, in 1948. She moved on to Detroit, Michigan and joined a ready naval reserve unit and was employed as Supervisor and Instructor, Medical Nursing, at Highland Park (Michigan) General Hospital until 1951.
Ordered to return to active naval service, she reported in June 1951, as a ward nurse at the Naval Hospital, Portsmouth, Virginia. Transferred in September 1951 to the Naval Hospital Corps School, Portsmouth, she was a Nursing Instructor there until October 1956, when she became Interservice Education Coordinator at the Naval Hospital, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. From June 1958 to May 1961 she served as Nurse Programs Officer at the Naval Recruiting Station, Chicago, Illinois, after which she had duty as Charge Nurse at the U. S. Naval Station Hospital, Subic Bay, Republic of the Philippines. In April 1962 she was assigned as Assistant Chief Nurse at the U.S. Naval Hospital, Yokosuka, Japan. She transferred from the Naval Reserve to the U.S. Navy in December 1953, advancing progressively in rank and promoted to captain on July 1, 1967.
During the period May 1963 to June 1965 she was the Senior Nurse Corps Officer at the Naval Station Dispensary, Long Beach, California. Following an assignment as Chief of the Nursing Branch at the Naval Hospital Corps School, San Diego, California, she reported in May 1966 as Assistant for Nurse Recruitment in the Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (Health and Medical), Washington, D. C. She remained there until May 1967, then had duty until February 1968 as Assistant Head of Medical Placement Liaison (Nurse Corps), Bureau of Naval Personnel, Navy Department. She next returned to the Naval Hospital, Great Lakes, where she served as Chief of Nursing Service until May 1970, when she became Director of the Navy Nurse Corps, Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, Navy Department.
Her selection for the rank of Rear Admiral was approved by the President on 26 April 1972. On June 1, 1972, she advanced to flag rank, the first woman to be selected, and was frocked as a rear admiral by Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Elmo R. Zumwalt in 1972.
When she retired from the Navy in 1975 (still as director of the Nurse Corps), Duerk became director of United Services Life Insurance Company in Florida, where she also served as director of the Visiting Nurses Association and Foundation for Central Florida.
She died in Central Florida on July 21, 2018, at the age of 98.
Rear Admiral Duerk was awarded the Naval Reserve Medal, American Campaign Medal; Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with Bronze Star; World War II Victory Medal; Navy Occupation Service Medal, Asia Clasp; and the National Defense Service Medal with Bronze Star.
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