Obituary as published in the Coronado Eagle & Journal, online Edition, Thursday, 02-21-2008
Lyda (Helder) Skaalen: Feb. 8, 2008
Lyda (Helder) Skaalen passed away on Feb. 8. After a year and a half of dialysis, her heart stopped and she went peacefully. She was ready to go and is no doubt enjoying her new life with Christ.
Lyda Mae, water-skier, nurse, wife and mother, is now part of the late great generation that served our country so selflessly. Lyda was never one to be left out and that competitive spirit was stoked by her five brothers and older sister. This spirit of competition allowed her to break down gender barriers that led to her winning a National Women's Water Ski Championship in 1941, prior to her military service. Her fearless nature led to trick skiing as she would hang from a bar held up by two male skiers on the choppy waters of Lake Michigan.
Soon after she received her R.N. degree from Blodgett Memorial Hospital in Grand Rapids, Mich. However, with the onset of the war, her pIans to go to medical school became wishful thinking. She headed off to the Pacific arena, spending the next two and a half years on the tiny island of Caledonia, doing more doctoring than she would have ever imagined. Lyda returned home during the war when her only sister died, but out of loyalty to the troops, she volunteered for another tour on the European front. Spending the next seven months in France, she did what she could to keep our young men alive. The things that characterize Lyda, her fearlessness, athleticism and sheer determination, were gifts that enabled her to do what she needed to do.
Lyda's stories were endlessly entertaining. Whether it was episodes of skiing behind the general's boat in shark-infested waters or of nearly being killed once by a German officer and once by a delirious American officer, we were always fascinated with her life. Through it all she said she never remembered being afraid. Her love for those young soldiers made her strong enough to do an unimaginable job.
These events defined the rest of Lyda's life. She met and married a B-24 pilot in a military hospital in Iowa. He was Mike Skaalen. They had four children and moved to Coronado in 1954. Lyda will be missed every day by her children, her ten grandchildren, her seven great-grandchildren and her many friends in Coronado. She loved her church, St. Paul's United Methodist and was a very active member for many years. She enjoyed golf, camping and her grandchildren and made a great chocolate chip cookie.
Her ashes will be interred at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery next to her husband Mike (Capt. Morris Arnold Skaalen, USAF, Ret. 1918-1999 – Section CBE, Row 2, Site 180). A memorial service will be held on Feb. 22 at 1 p.m. at St. Paul's United Methodist Church in Coronado.