Benedict, MD – For Veterans Day, there are stories and then there are the Chappelear triplets.

Born May 21, 1922 at Providence Hospital in Washington, Ellen Rose, Mary Virginia and Elizabeth Flavia grew up in Benedict. They were 19 when World War II erupted.

Their brothers, Thomas and Francis, both served in the war. Thomas entered the service and served on a mine sweeper in the Northern Atlantic. Francis joined the war effort later and was stationed somewhere in Southeast Asia. Both would live to return home following the conflict.

In 1942, the three triplets joined the Army Air Force and entered nursing school at Coral Gables, Florida. They served in Florida until their father took ill, then returned to the area and served at Andrews Air Force Base.

Of the three, only Virginia “Ginny” survives at age 93, and still lives in her native Benedict.

“We wanted to join the Navy,” Ginny said. “They wouldn’t take the three of us together. We wanted to go right away, but they told us we weren’t old enough to go in the service. We had to wait a year.”

Because of the “Fighting Sullivans,” five brothers who served together on the USS Juneau and were killed in action when the ship was sunk in November of 1942, the Navy wouldn’t allow them to enlist and serve together, which was something they wanted to do.

They joined the Army Air Force instead, all three serving together throughout the duration of the war.

“We didn’t go overseas,” she said. “The ones who were in the service longer got to go to the war.

“We served at Biltmore Hospital,” Ginny noted. “It was a hotel. It was a big place. They turned it into a hospital.”

As attractive triplets, they caused a bit of a stir at Biltmore. Initially, she said, people didn’t realize there were three of them.

“The guys down at the commissary got mad at us, because they would be friendly with one of us and then when one of the others went down there and didn’t respond when they talked to us, they thought we were snubbing them,” she laughed. “Once they found out there were three of us, they were all right then. Some of the patients had the same problem,” Ginny said.

The three sisters became minor celebrities. The Army Air Corp flew them to New York City as part of a recruiting campaign for nurses and they were interviewed on radio on the Big Apple. They had their photo taken with Bob Hope.

“We could have met Eleanor Roosevelt,” she said, “but we decided to go swimming instead.”

Most of the soldiers they helped were wounded in the war.

“Some got sent back [to the war],” Ginny explained.

After the war, the three returned to Providence Hospital, where they were born, and served until their retirement. Rose worked in the operating room, Flavia was in pediatrics and Ginny worked on the EKG lab and blood bank. She retired from Providence in 1977.

Rose and Ginny married and lived at Benedict. Flavia lived in Hughesville and continued to play organ at St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church in Benedict. Rose passed in 2011. Flavia followed a year-and-a-half later.

Ginny still lives just down the block in Benedict from where her grandparents ran a huge hotel in the early 20th-century. Her family also owned Chappelear’s Restaurant, one of the victims of Tropical Storm Isabel in 2003.

Contact Joseph Norris at