Irene Michels Sorrough, a resident of Falls Church since 1947 and member of the St. James Catholic Church, died on May 22 at the age of 98. She was a career enlistee in the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) and Women’s Army Corps (WAC) for 62 years from 1942 to 1968, finishing up as the chief of personnel of the Army Engineer School at Ft. Belvoir.
Born April 17, 1915, in New York the daughter of immigrants, she lost her father at age 12 and her mother worked as a seamstress. She put herself through college during the Depression at the City College of New York while working full time as a bookkeeper. A student for seven years, she stopped short of a degree to enlist in the WAAC, and was later awarded a degree in absentia, becoming the first WAAC to received that honor, when she graduated from the WAAC Officer Candidate School.
She worked in Washington, D.C. until 1949 and was assigned to the U.S. Army Europe headquarters from 1949 to 1952, returning to the Washington area (and Falls Church) in 1956 until her 1968 retirement. She was awarded the Legion of Merit, Army Commendation Medal, Army of Occupation Medal (Germany), WAAC/WAC Service Medal, the Ameircan Campaign Medal, National Defense Medal and bronze star.
For four decades, she was a member of the Friends of the Smithsonian and James Smithson Society. Her marriage to Capt. Fred H. Sorrough of the Army Air Forces in 1943 ended in divorce in 1953. There were no children.
Following her retirement, she traveled the world extensively and surrounded herself with devoted friends in Falls Church. According to the description of one, “She was legally blind with macular degeneration for about the last 20 years of her life, wore hearing aids in each ear and suffered severe respiratory problems. Despite these issues she continued a very active lifestyle, continued to travel until about two years ago, and maintained an active interest in life, her friends, and the military. She loved to go out, eat at nice restaurants, visit places, including the Smithsonian museums, and to be with people. She was a fierce spirit, disabilities and all.”
Her funeral will be held July 31 at the Fort Myer Memorial Chapel at 2:45 p.m., followed by her burial at Arlington Cemetery.