Margaret Catherine “Cathy” McDonough Drake, 96, died on June 3, 2021, at her home in Primrose Retirement Community, Newburgh, Ind.
Cathy was a former Army nurse whose experiences and service at a Mobile Army Surgical Hospital in South Korea, along with her late husband, Dr. Dale Drake, contributed to the background and provided the inspiration for the novel, movie, and long-running TV series M*A*S*H.
Cathy was born on Jan. 18, 1925, in Shelby, Mont., the youngest of three children of Christopher and Margaret (McCoy) McDonough. She graduated from Shelby High School and the Columbus Hospital School of Nursing in Great Falls, Mont.
Cathy joined the Army Nursing Corps in 1949 and achieved the rank of First Lieutenant. She was stationed at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, D.C., when in 1950 she was assigned to the 171st Evacuation Hospital in Korea. She was later assigned to the 8077th MASH unit in South Korea, which was later moved to North Korea. From there, she was assigned to Japan, and then back to South Korea to the 8055th MASH unit. It was there she met a newly arrived anesthesiologist, Dr. Dale Drake, who would later become her husband of 65 years.
Cathy soon returned to the states for an assignment at Walter Reed Hospital, while Dale remained in South Korea for another year. They were reunited in Washington, D.C., where they were married on June 6, 1953. Soon thereafter, they moved to Philadelphia where Dale had accepted a position teaching anesthesiology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and Cathy worked as a nurse at Presbyterian Hospital. Dale and Cathy soon reconnected with a mutual friend living in Evansville, who suggested that Dale consider establishing a practice at one of the hospitals there. A few months later, Dale and Cathy had made Evansville their new home, as Dale accepted a position at St. Mary’s Hospital (now Ascension St. Vincent Evansville).
The M*A*S*H phenomena originated about 10 years after the Korean War during a visit by Dale and Cathy to the Maine home of Dr. Richard Hornberger, a thoracic surgeon, who also served with them in South Korea at the 8055 MASH unit. Unknown to Dale and Cathy at the time of their visit, Dr. Hornberger had begun compiling a fictionalized collection of stories based on the experiences of his fellow doctors and nurses at the 8055 MASH unit. He later cited this evening of reminiscing and storytelling with Dale and Cathy as providing the impetus for him to finish his manuscript. The resulting book, published in 1968, under his pen name Richard Hooker as M*A*S*H: A Novel About Three Army Doctors, was soon followed by the 1970 Robert Altman film, M*A*S*H, and the TV series M*A*S*H, which ran from 1972 to 1983.
Throughout the run of the TV series, Dale and Cathy were frequently consulted by the show’s co-creator, Gene Reynolds, and many of their recollections and details they shared with him contributed to the show’s authenticity and story lines of several episodes. Dale and Cathy were also prominently featured in The Real M*A*S*H, a 2010 documentary by Toronto based filmmaker, Min Sook Lee, that examines how the real-life experiences of several doctors and nurses that served in MASH units in South Korea compared to what was portrayed in the Robert Altman film and the TV series.
Cathy was also prominently featured in a nationally televised program held in 2012 at the Women in Military Service to America Memorial in Arlington, Va. to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Korean War. This program featured five women Korean War Veterans from the Army, Marine Corps, Navy and Air Force who each described a particular memory from their war experience.
Cathy served as a volunteer nurse for the American Red Cross in Evansville for many years. She was a docent at the Reitz Home Museum and a member of the Reitz Home Guild. Cathy was a founding member of Corpus Christi Catholic Church and was a board member for the Diocese of Evansville Catholic Education Foundation. Other memberships and volunteer activities included Girl Scout leader, St. Mary’s (now Ascension St. Vincent) Hospital Auxiliary, Vanderburgh County Medical Society Auxiliary, and the Evansville Kennel Club.
Cathy was a passionate fan of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the Mater Dei Wildcats. She enjoyed watching thoroughbred horse racing at Ellis Park, where and she and Dale maintained a box for many years. They attended the Kentucky Derby on many occasions and enjoyed visiting other racetracks across the country. She was an avid Bridge player and was a member of the same Bridge club for over 50 years. She was proud of her Irish heritage and her Montana roots.
Cathy is survived by her three children, Dr. Michael Drake, and his wife, Nancy Tarsitano, of Evansville, Susan Wolf, and her husband, Jerry, of Westfield, Ind., and Erin Born, and her husband, Rick, of Gonzales, La.; seven grandchildren, Patrick Drake, of St. Louis, Mo., John (Erika) Drake, of Ladue, Mo., Brian (Meleana) Wolf, of Honolulu, Hawaii, Alex (Kelsey) Wolf, of Moreland Hills, Ohio, Maggie (Patrick) Murphy, of Keller, Texas, Andrew (Catherine) Born, of St. Louis, Mo., and Mollie (Joe) Tonner, of Fort Worth, Texas; nine great-grandchildren, Lila Drake, Oscar Drake, Otto Drake, Nanea Wolf, Nalu Wolf, Whitman Wolf, West Wolf, Maeve Murphy, Brigid Murphy and an additional two great-grandsons on the way.
In addition to her husband, Dale, and her parents, Cathy was preceded in death by her brothers, James McDonough and Patrick McDonough.
The family would like to acknowledge the staff of Home Instead Senior Care (especially Mischelle Stocum), Solarbron Pointe Family-first Senior Living, Primrose Retirement Community, Tim and Brenda Born, and Mary Ellen Muensterman for the compassionate care they provided to Cathy, as well as the many friends and extended family members who kept in touch with Cathy over the years.
Memorial contributions may be made to Corpus Christi Catholic Church, 5528 Hogue Road, Evansville, IN 47712, or Mater Dei High School, 1300 Harmony Way, Evansville, IN 47720.