Last woman in group known for saving cultural treasures during and after World War II dies of coronavirus

Motoko Fujishiro Huthwaite, the last of a group of women who worked to preserve art and cultural treasures during and after World War II, has died of complications from coronavirus at 92.

Huthwaite was the last of the 27 so-called Monuments Women, who along with 318 male counterparts, worked to ensure Allied bombing raids spared artifacts and cultural sites and to repair those that were damaged, according to The New York Times. After the war, they tracked down and returned more than 4 million items stolen by the Nazis.

While much of the group’s work occurred in Europe, Huthwaite, who was the daughter of Japanese immigrants and was sent to Japan after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, worked for the group in the Pacific after the war, preparing field reports and correspondence. During this period, she also reported directly to Lt. Commander George Stout, the co-creator of the Monuments Men.

In 2015, the six then-surviving Monuments Men and Monuments Women were presented with the Congressional Gold Medal. Huthwaite and three other survivors attended the ceremony.

After her work with the Monuments Men and Women, Huthwaite earned a master’s degree in education from the University of South Carolina in 1967 and a doctorate in elementary curriculum from Michigan’s Wayne State University in 1974.

She continued teaching in Michigan and later joined a local chapter of the “Raging Grannies,” a network of older women who demonstrate in favor of peace and social justice causes across the U.S. and Canada.

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She died in Taylor, Mich.

With Huthwaite’s death, Richard Barancik, a U.S. Army veteran, is the only surviving member of either the Monuments Men or Monuments Women.

Tags Coronavirus World War II

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