We had an extraordinary event on Saturday at the Western Pacific Railroad Museum in Portola. Julia Rigutto Pagan, one of the original nurses who worked the WP’s Korean War Blood Procurement Pullman Car the “Charles O. Sweetwood” was brought by her family for a surprise reunion with the railcar. Also present was Bill Sweetwood, the nephew of the car’s namesake. Charles Sweetwood was a front line medic in the early months of the conflict and was killed in action while saving lives on September 8, 1950, 8 days after his 21st birthday.
(History of the car and its blood drive service in conjunction with the Red Cross: http://www.wplives.org/passengercarpages/AHigherCallingtheSweetwood.pdf)
Representatives from the Red Cross and from Congressman Doug LaMalfa’s office came to present Julia with certificates thanking her for her service. Her and her family, as well as Bill and his wife, got to tour the unrestored car and learn about the recently received cost and work scope estimate to restore it to full operation. Bill Sweetwood also brought a scrapbook he and the family put together exploring Charles’ life and the history of the car in Blood Procurement Service.
The highlight was hearing Julia, now 95, talk about her experience and memories of working the car and the people she worked with on this incredible venture. She is still very proud of what they accomplished, even though, as she pointed out several times, the underlying need was something very tragic. She was thrilled to meet Bill and talked about meeting his grandmother, father and another uncle when the car was dedicated in January 1951.
It was amazing to hear this history come to life so vividly.
In a couple months, the daughter of one of the car’s later owners, Marcus “Marty” Lummus, will be coming to visit. We’re very much looking forward to her visit as well to hear about the car’s later life.
Earlier post on the Sweetwood: https://www.trainorders.com/discussion/read.php?11,3232053,4322032#msg-4322032
Photo 1: Juila Rigutto Pagan and Bill Sweetwood on the observation platform of the WP 106 “Charles O. Sweetwood”. I am holding a photo showing Julia and the rest of the original staff on the same platform in January 1951.
Photo 2: Julia and some of her family inside the WP 106 “Charles O. Sweetwood”, exploring the car and viewing photos showing Julia in 1951 and 1952 from the FRRS archives.
Photo 3: Julia drawing blood from a Donor in one of the car’s bedrooms.
Photo 4: Red Cross volunteers and representatives pose with Julia and the certificate honoring her years of service. Julia was also a Navy nurse before joining the Red Cross.
Photo 5: The original staff of the Sweetwood in Oakland on January 10, 1951. Julia is at far right. (This is the image I am holding in Photo 1 of this post)
All photos from the Feather River Rail Society by Michael Clawson.
Thank you to Patty Clawson, Shane Starr, Red Cross Gold Country Region, Bill Sweetwood, Frank Brehm and the volunteers of the Feather River Rail Society for pulling this whole thing together and to Julia’s daughter Cynthia for kicking off the whole visit.