Eva LeVine's military service didn't end with her discharge from the Women's Army Corps at the end of World War II.
After marrying and raising her two children, LeVine dedicated more than 50 years to volunteering at Tucson's VA hospital on South Sixth Avenue. Even as her health failed and after she had to give up driving, LeVine rode the bus from her midtown home to the south-side complex to commiserate with vets receiving treatment, hand out toiletries from the "comfort cart" she pushed through the halls and lend an ear to those struggling with the physical and emotional traumas of war.
LeVine, 86, was still volunteering in June, when she had a catastrophic stroke. She died a month later, on July 26.
LeVine, who went by "Eve," was strong-willed and independent, even as a young woman growing up in Philadelphia. After her mother died and her father remarried, a 17-year-old LeVine hopped a bus with $60 in her pocket and made what was then a weeklong trip across the country to Phoenix.
Her decision to leave, said her son, Mark LeVine of Willcox, was twofold: She had a lifelong bronchial condition that doctors told her could be alleviated in a drier climate, and she didn't get along with her stepmother.
"She was a very remarkable gal," said her younger sister, Mary Dubrow of Maryland. "She met a woman on the bus, and the woman told her the government will give you $5 a month and teach you a trade and give you free room and board. She took up radio communication, or something like that, just to get room and board. When she finished, she felt so great she became a Wac and loved it."
LeVine served at Luke Air Force Base, then called Luke Field, in Phoenix, before taking a post in Abilene, Texas, followed by a transfer to Colorado. It was at the higher altitude that LeVine once again experienced bronchial problems that resulted in a medical discharge, her return to Tucson and surgery to remove part of the lobe of one of her lungs, her son said.
Still, the surgery didn't slow her down for long.
"I always said, 'Eve, you are the black sheep of the family,' because everyone in the family stayed home until they got married. That's the way it was many years ago," her sister said. "She realized she had to do something and she was strong enough to pick herself up and go. She got on that bus and didn't know where or who or anything.
"She struggled financially, but she was a very strong gal in the sense that she took chances. She used to tell me she lived on peanut butter and crackers because she was alone, she had no family and she was struggling," Dubrow said. "She had a lot of guts. I wish I had the guts to do the things she did."
It was while standing in an unemployment line in downtown Tucson that LeVine met her future husband, Jack LeVine. The couple had two children, Mark and Gloria.
"She didn't want to get married, but he kept pestering her," Mark LeVine said.
Money was tight, so both parents had to work, their son said. Eve picked up odd jobs, including bagging purchases at a grocery store and heading the cafeteria crew at her son's junior high, before landing a long-term job as an administrative assistant in the University of Arizona optical sciences department, followed by office work for the City Court system.
"She's one of these people who make friends, and most of them are friends for life," her son said. "She still got together with the girls from the City Court to have lunch with them."
LeVine didn't remarry after her husband died in 1976. Instead, she threw herself into her work and volunteering. She was actively involved with the Jewish Community Center, the Opera Guild of Southern Arizona, Friends of the Pima County Public Library, the Udall Senior Center and local chapters of the Jewish War Veterans and the American Legion VFW.
LeVine volunteered thousands of hours with the VA hospital alone.
"She used to say, 'Mary, it broke my heart. I would go to the hospital and see these kids without arms and without legs,' " Dubrow said. "She'd go to the hospital and do so much, even when she was so sick. She said she had to."
In recent years, LeVine's health deteriorated and she gave up driving, but she wouldn't give up her volunteer work.
"She used to take two or three buses to get there. She made a gigantic effort to get there," said Sally Bryant, a friend. "She received a lot from when she was in the service, and she wanted to pay it back. She felt obligation to the country and to the people who served like she did, and she wanted to help other people."
LeVine was respected by the hospital patients because she was a vet herself, said Deborah Brookshire, the program manager for the VA hospital's Voluntary Service department.
The patients "really enjoyed her sense of humor. She was very straightforward. She didn't beat around the bush or pull any punches. She shared her opinions. She didn't care what people thought," Brookshire said. "She was very funny. She had this very distinct laugh. In any of the wards, you knew which patient's rooms she was in because you could hear her laugh."
When LeVine wasn't volunteering, she and Bryant took water aerobics classes at the Jewish Community Center, computer classes at the downtown library or attended the opera, where LeVine volunteered in exchange for free admission.
"She liked to do things that were stimulating to her brain," Bryant said.
LeVine's sense of independence didn't wane with age. She saved her money and regularly took trips on her own. She was particularly fond of cruises, and, at the time of her stroke, was planning one with her sister.
"She was a very independent lady," Brookshire said. "She took trips all the time. She didn't let her age keep her from traveling. She preferred not to have travel companions because she said they held her back."
This feature chronicles the lives of recently deceased Tucsonans. Some were well-known across the community. Others had an impact on a smaller sphere of friends, family and acquaintances. Many of these people led interesting — and sometimes extraordinary — lives with little or no fanfare. Now you'll hear their stories.
Did you know Eva LeVine? Add your remembrance to this article online at azstarnet.com/lifestories