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First Name: Lucy

Last Name: Gagan

Birthplace: San Juan, PR, PR

Gender: Female

Branch: Army (1784 - present)

Middle Name: Luz Aurea

Maiden Name: Santos

Date of Birth: 18 February 1921

Date of Death: 18 December 2008


Years Served:
Lucy Luz Aurea Gagan


Lucy Luz Aurea Santos Gagan
Private, U. S. Women's Army Corps
World War II

She was born "Luz Aurea Santos y Salgado-Felix" on 18 February 1921 in the Santurce district of San Juan, Puerto Rico. She was the 4th of 6 sisters and she also had 3 brothers. From the time she was small she was teaching her younger siblings nursery rhymes, how to write and how to dance. When she was a young girl, the family moved to New York City where she was soon taking lessons on a Hawaiian guitar she received as a present. She adored movies and, during her teenage years, fell in love with Fred Astaire and Ginger Roger movies. As her love of music developed, she saw the dance team of "Veloz and Yolanda" in "Champagne Waltz" when she was 16 years old. They made such an impression on her that she took lessons to become a tango dancer. She was soon performing with "Talamo,"a Rudolf Valentino look-alike.

World War II broke out and she was quick to help the effort. She sold war bonds and soon found work in a defense factory in New Jersey.

Military Service

In 1945, Lucy joined the Women's Army Corps with her sister Estrellita ('Lita') and both were sent to San Francisco where they were stationed at the Presidio. The Palace of Fine Arts, a leftover from the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition, was used as a motor pool by the Army and Lucy served many long hours working as a clerk typist there. Both sisters soon transferred to Camp Cooke (now Vandenberg Air Force Base) near Santa Maria, CA. Their sisters came out from New York to live and work in the town and to be close by. Like her sisters, Lucy took elocution lessons to lose her charming Puerto Rican accent. She learned to speak English with perfect diction and to pronounce perfectly, but still could speak perfect Spanish, and some French, throughout her life. Lucy and Estrellita were discharged at the end of the war.

Post-Military Life

While in Santa Maria in the late 1940s, many of the sisters worked at a restaurant called "The Canton Tea Garden" just above the Grayson Hotel. The owners Art and Mary Gin became lifelong friends of the family.

By the late 1940s Lucy, her mother Marcella, and the sisters had all relocated to the Los Angeles area. They formed a singing group called "The Santos Sisters" and toured local night clubs in the Hollywood area; they were also often heard on live radio broadcasts. However, most of the sisters soon began to marry and start families.

In 1950, Lucy met and fell in love with a handsome man of Irish descent named Dale Gagan. They met in MacArthur Park, in West Los Angeles, while he was between two periods of military duty. At the time, he worked as a cook in West Los Angeles at Tortilla Pete's Mexican Restaurant. In 1957, they had a son named Casey. Born with blonde hair and brown eyes, their son was the light of their lives.

Lucy was a very dedicated wife and mother. She was initially a "stay at home" mom who was very involved in Casey's schooling and activities. Lucy was also active in the PTA.... she soon became the "adopted mom" of all of Casey's youth sport teams. She volunteered as the head scorekeeper for the Little League organization; was concession stand organizer for youth Pop Warner Football; and was the Woodcraft Ranger Den Mother. Lucy also became the volunteer librarian at Casey's elementary school for 3 years. She loved to volunteer her time.

As her son went on to Junior High and High School, Lucy went to work for Thrifty Drug Stores from 1969 to 1980. She worked as a retail clerk and pharmacy assistant. She enjoyed meeting the community during her years at Thrifty Drug.

In 1980, Casey graduated from the University of Southern California (USC) and was off to flight school in the U.S. Navy. Lucy and her husband Dale retired in San Diego. They enjoyed a beautiful ten years together in retirement with family and friends in the Sports Arena area. They traveled along the coast, enjoying camping, fishing, sailing and the great outdoors. Throughout the 1980's, Lucy and Dale hosted many of her son's Navy Fighter Pilot colleagues while Casey was stationed at nearby Miramar Naval Air Station flying the F-14 Tomcat. During that time, Lucy also volunteered with the Navy League in supporting squadron family military functions.

In 1990, after the passing of her husband Dale, the love of her life, Lucy opted to stay busy and socially active. An amazing patriot, Lucy became President of the Women's Army Corps Veterans Association.

In the early 1990s, Lucy and Lita helped establish and open the Veterans Museum and Memorial Museum located near Balboa Park in San Diego. Lucy volunteered as the assistant to the executive director from 1990 to 1998. Many of the museum's current exhibits were assembled from Lucy and Lita's personal collection of WAC photos and memorabilia still on display today. Both women spent countless hours at the museum establishing the collection and working in administration as volunteers.

In 2004, Lucy began to suffer from dementia. She lived with this disease for four years in the Alexandria Care Center assisted living facility in Hollywood, CA.

Death and Burial

On 18 December 2008 Lucy Aurea Gagan passed away peacefully and quietly in her sleep. She is buried at Holy Cross Cemetery in San Diego, CA.

Lucy is survived by her loving son Casey (died on 22 September 2010). Her step-daughter Patti, grandchildren Lori, Gary and Dawn. Great grandchildren Sydney, Michaela, Meghan and Madison. Lucy's sister Lita and many family members and friends.

Honoree ID: 2141   Created by: MHOH




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