NORMAN — When Mabel Ruth “Mike” Stephanic rolls down the halls of the Norman Veterans Center in her wheelchair that’s decked out in her favorite collegiate color, she greets everyone who crosses her path with a warm smile and a hearty Oklahoma hello.
Stephanic doesn’t care much that she’s an Oklahoma State fan living in Sooner country. After all, she says, she taught at OSU for 27 years and that should give her the right to be proud of her Cowboys. She does admit, however, that her nursing degree is from the University of Oklahoma.
But there’s more to Stephanic than her kind eyes and her lovable nature. A World War II Army nurse, Stephanic blazed a trail when she enlisted all those many years ago.
The older of two children, Stephanic was born in Topeka, Kan, but grew up in Ponca City.
“My dad was a quintessential Virginia gentleman. But he was strange in one way that he thought a girl should be able to take care of herself,” Stephanic said. “I learned to box. I played tackle football. I was the only girl in a neighborhood of all boys so while my name is Mabel Ruth, I was named for my mother’s sister and a cousin, the boys decided that was too much of a mouthful so I was christened Mike. And I’ve been Mike ever since. I’ve been Mike since I was about 3 or 4 years old. Mother never did call me Mike but practically everybody else did.”
Growing up in a household where gender lines were not drawn is one of the reasons that Stephanic thinks motivated her to enlist in the Army.
“I remember hearing the reports on the seventh of December (1941) and I was starting my senior year. I knew right then, I was going to have to be there,”