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Longtime resident Cecil McCollough dies at 95

Cecil McCollough, 95, a longtime Brainerd area resident whose wartime experiences included service in Great Britain’s Women’s Auxiliary Air Force, died Tuesday at Good Samaritan Village-Bethany in Brainerd.

Her son, Terry McCollough, retired publisher of the Brainerd Dispatch, said she loved her adopted country of the United States but the defining moments of her life were her military service in World War II. The daughter of a World War I veteran, most of her family played some part in the fight against Germany. Her sister was a motorcycle dispatcher. Her brother served in the British military. Her mother, who was fluent in German, helped interrogate Germans when she wasn’t preparing bandages for the Red Cross. McCollough described his mother as a great patriot as evidenced by her service as a photo intelligence officer.

Cecil McCollough enlisted after her first husband was shot down during the Battle of Britain, Terry McCollough said. Some time later, during the war, McCollough said that she met his father, while he was stationed in Great Britain working with photographs for the Eighth Air Force. After the couple was married she moved to Brainerd in 1944.

“Her family was everything to her,” McCollough said. “Not just those of us here but her extended family in England and Ireland. She had a great sense of duty to her country.”

The last surviving charter member of Chapter CJ of PEO Sisterhood, McCollough was also a wine consultant at Esser’s Warehouse Liquors for about 20 years.

Caren Bedard, treasurer of Chapter CJ, remembered McCollough for her participation in the charitable organization and at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.

“She was delightful,” Bedard said. “It was just wonderful to listen to her stories, especially about World War II. She did a lot of what we call pastoral care (for church) where she would go out and visit the shut-ins. There were people she would go and visit two or three times a week.”

Katharine Herold, a niece of McCollough’s, was mentored in golf by her aunt and fondly recalled her stories of World War II and growing up in Ireland.

“She was one of the finest ladies I’ve ever known,” Herold said. “She always had the most charming stories.”

McCollough is survived by four children and numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Terry McCollough said memorial services and a celebration of life will be conducted at a later date at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. He said the date and additional details would be announced in the Brainerd Dispatch.

MIKE O’ROURKE, associate editor, may be reached at 8955-5860 or

Mike O'Rourke
Mike O'Rourke began his career at the Brainerd Dispatch in 1978 as a general assignment reporter. He was named city editor in 1981 and associate editor in 1999. He covers politics and writes features and editorials.
(218) 855-5860