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Saturday, November 22, 2014

Happy birthday, Lt. Luta 'Cornie' McGrath!

Luta "Cornie" McGrath enjoys her birthday cards.
Retired Army Lt. Luta “Cornie” McGrath spent her birthday Nov. 21 chatting with visitors, reading some of the dozens of birthday cards she received, and enjoying the many flower arrangements delivered to her home in the Sleepy Hollow Woods neighborhood. On Saturday, members of her church, Queen of Apostles, planned a surprise party for her.

Cornie deserves a big celebration – after all it was her 107th birthday.

Cornie in her uniform.
Cornie is a World War II veteran and was one of the first commissioned woman officers in the U.S. Army. She still lives in the same house she and her husband bought in 1960. Her live-in assistant, Clara Campagna, has been with her for the past seven years and is more like a family member than a caretaker.

During a visit on her birthday, Cornie told us she grew up on a farm in Lee County, Ky., where she helped her mother work in the garden. She went to high school in Ohio while living with an uncle.

After graduating, she joined the Women’s Army Corps (WAC). She was sent to Fort Oglethorpe in Georgia and the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland, then went to Ft. Lee in Virginia for officer training. 

Cornie served as an ordnance officer in Germany during the Berlin blockade. She met her husband, Lt. Col. Thomas “Mac” McGrath, there, and they married in 1950 after returning to the States. She worked at the Pentagon for many years and after retiring became a real estate broker. Mac died in 1991. They didn’t have any children, but Cornie has fond memories of their dogs.

Despite her advanced age, Cornie leads a pretty active social life. She has many friends in the neighborhood and attends many church and veterans group functions.

Cornie can get around her house using a walker. She likes to watch game shows on TV, including “The Price is Right” and Wheel of Fortune,” Clara reports. They go out to eat frequently at Silverado, Juke Box Diner, and Mama Mia, and Clara takes her to weekly appointments at the Dynasty Hair Salon in Annandale.

Recently, Cornie was escorted by limousine to a wreath-laying ceremony at the WWII Memorial. She attended a Veterans Day ceremony at Ft. Myer, where she met first lady Michelle Obama and House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi and was given a special quilt. Clara plans to take her back to the Ft. Myer Officers’ Club for Thanksgiving.

During our visit, a neighbor dropped by with a birthday card and described how Cornie would always “pop in and brighten your day. Even in her 90s, if any neighbors were going to be alone on Thanksgiving, she would take a group of us to the Officers’ Club.”


  1. Happy Birthday Lieutenant! And thank you for your service!

  2. Happy Birthday to an amazing women. Thank you for serving our Country. I bet she has some incredible stories to tell.

  3. Thanks for this really positive story. What an interesting life and lady.

  4. Wonderful story!

  5. Absolutely amazing happy birthday and God bless! I will never forget you and Mr McGrath sitting in the bay window across from our home on Ivydale drive.