Blues present Harriet McGuire, a veteran of the Greatest Generation
ST. LOUIS — Monday night, the St. Louis Blues scored three times and defeated the Colorado Avalanche in thrilling fashion heading into the All-Star break. But their performance was not what garnered the loudest cheers.
No, that would have been the ovation for a 91-year-old woman.
"They made such a big deal about it," Harriet McGuire said.
During the second official timeout of the game, the St. Louis Blues paused to honor McGuire, a local World War II veteran and nurse. The sold-out Scottrade Center delivered a standing ovation that sent chills through the crowd.
"The fans just stayed up, they stood up longer and just kept clapping," Blues owner Tom Stillman said. "It was really a very nice moment. I was proud of our fans."
The Blues and their fans have been given the opportunity to honor those who served our country more than 70 years ago in a new program, First Bank’s Greatest Generation, helping to raise awareness for Greater St. Louis Honor Flight, which recognizes veterans with a day of honor, remembrance and celebration at the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C.
"It’s a big honor every time we have a World War II veteran in the house," Stillman said. "Each one of them has been very impressive. This woman, she could be 50. She’s just got a light in her eye and she is just so happy to be here and she, like the others, just have this air about them like, ‘Why are you making such a big deal?’"
After the tribute from the crowd, McGuire was greeted by longtime Blues player and executive Bob Plager on her way up to the owner’s suite, where she met Stillman and suite guests such as St. Louis Cardinals second baseman Kolten Wong.
"Everyone congratulating me for what, you know?" McGuire asked. "I went in and was a nurse and that’s what I did and I enjoyed every minute of it."
She could hardly return to her seat as she was greeted with hugs and handshakes from total strangers, all wanting to thank her for what she and so many others did for their country. The touching response left her three daughters, who accompanied her Monday night, in tears.
"Anything I can experience with my family. They’re great," McGuire said. "I have the greatest family I ever could want."
McGuire grew up in the Farmington, Mo., area on a farm during the Great Depression. "As they say, ‘When we were little and young we were poor, but we didn’t know it.’"
The military gave McGuire the opportunity to explore the world and head out to the West Coast for her time in the service.
"I learned how to play tennis, met a lot of nice people and I still have a lot of nice friends yet," she said. "I’ve lost a lot of them, but there are still friends that I have yet."
That is why the Blues, First Bank and the Greater St. Louis Honor Flight have teamed up to honor these veterans. With an estimated 413 American World War II veterans dying every day (according to the Department of Veterans Affairs), there is some urgency to their effort.
"I am just glad that there is a realization in this country for how much this generation did and that we are honoring them," Stillman said. "That generation won’t be around much longer, so I am glad that they are getting their due."
The Blues make a donation to the Greater St. Louis Honor Flight every time the team scores first this season — just as they did Monday while McGuire cheered them on. McGuire, in fact, went on a recent honor flight herself as a guest of the program.
"That was really, really a fun thing," she said. "It was a long day. But just meeting all the people we met that day. And these were people that I didn’t know from the service. But there were 25 people that went and two of them were women."
"So it was just fun talking to all of the guys and hearing their stories. It kind of reminded me of when I was in the service because that was one big thing you did, especially if you were on night duty. They all had to tell you their sad story about how they were in the foxhole and how the grenades came in and they threw it out — ‘That’s why I don’t have my arm’ and ‘That’s why I don’t have my leg.’"
Though it was painful to hear such stories and see the casualties, she was happy to play a role in the soldiers’ care and to support the war effort. "I am glad I could do what I did," she said.
And she is grateful for the opportunity after the war to live a fulfilling life.
"I have nine grandchildren and five children. I’ve had a good life," she said. "I really have."
And so have we, thanks to her service.
Teryn, a journalism graduate of the University of Missouri, is a FOX Sports Midwest Girl. You can follow the FOX Sports Midwest Girls on Facebook (FOX Sports Midwest Girls) and Twitter and Instagram (@FSMidwestGirls).