Anchorage VA clinic named for pioneering female Army colonel

people sitting, wearing masks, in a lobby
The Anchorage VA clinic was named after Col. Mary Louise Rasmuson on Feb. 24, 2022. In the front row is Alaska’s congressional delegation and Veterans Affairs Sec. Denis McDonough, second from right. (Liz Ruskin/Alaska Public Media)

A new VA clinic opened in Fairbanks Friday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony, while in Anchorage, the VA Medical Center was officially renamed after Col. Mary Louise Rasmuson.

Rasmusson was one of the first members of the Women’s Army Corps and rose through the ranks to become its leader. Born Mary Louise Milligan in Pennsylvania in 1911, she married Anchorage banker Elmer Rasmuson in 1961 and soon retired to move to Alaska, where she was a supporter of the arts and countless civic organizations.

University of Alaska Anchorage Professor Vanessa Meade spoke at the dedication ceremony in the Anchorage clinic’s lobby. She recalled meeting Rasmuson in 2012, a few months before her death.

“At her home when we met her, she was 101 years old. She was completely dressed to the nines. Hair perfect. Just sitting there with such dignity,” Meade recalled.

Meade said Rasmuson helped integrate Black women into the Women’s Army Corps and women into the regular Army decades later.

“When I asked her what was the best part about her service? She said, ‘why, being the boss, of course,'” Meade said.

Veterans Affairs Sec. Denis McDonough was on hand for the naming ceremony, as were all three members of Alaska’s congressional delegation.

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski said she hopes having one of the few VA facilities in the country that is named for a woman will give Alaska’s female veterans a greater sense of belonging.

The renaming took an act of Congress. President Joe Biden signed the bill last month.

Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent at Alaska Public Media. Reach her at Read more about Liz here.

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