Ohio Historical Marker: A Nurse's Sacrifice in the Great War

The Attica-Venice Joint Cemetery is the final resting place of Clara Edith (Work) Ayres, who died in the line of duty soon after the United States entered World War I in April 1917. Mrs. Ayres was born in Venice Township on September 16, 1880. She graduated from Attica High School in 1899 and in 1903 married local merchant Wayland Ayres, who died in 1906. Later, she moved to Chicago and graduated from the Illinois Training School for Nurses. 

Ayres joined Red Cross Unit 12 in 1916. She and fellow nurse Helen Wood died May 20, 1917 while their unit was sailing to Europe to join the Allied war effort. Aboard their ship, the S.S. Mongolia, a shell exploded prematurely during gunnery practice. Flying debris killed Ayres and Wood, the first American women to become casualties after the United States declared war. Another nurse, Emma Mazen, was wounded. The Mongolia immediately returned to port. Nurse Ayres’ remains were returned to Attica and she was given a funeral of high honor befitting her sacrifice. She was 36 years old.


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