EVANSVILLE, Ind. (AP) — When Cathy Drake went to dinner at a friend's house one night in the 1960s, she didn't know the conversations they had would change popular culture for decades to come.
Drake and her husband, Dale, traveled to Maine about 10 years after their time in the Korean War to reminisce with Dr. Richard Hornberger, who served with them in the 8055 MASH unit. They spent the evening knocking back cocktails and spitting stories about the people they knew there.
They talked about a nurse named "Hot Lips." A chest-cutter named "Trapper John." And a quiet doctor who suddenly sauntered into a Halloween party one night clad in a wig and shimmering dress.
Those characters went on to fill "MASH," the novel Hornberger, better known as Richard Hooker, was writing at the time. The book was eventually adapted into the legendary Robert Altman film of the same name, and later finessed into "M(asterisk)A(asterisk)S(asterisk)H," one of the most popular television shows of all time.
Drake leaves behind that and much more. The longtime Evansville resident died June 3 at the age of 96.
"We never thought it would turn out like it did," Cathy told the Indianapolis Star in 2013.
Born Margaret Catherine McDonough, the Montana native is survived by a son and two daughters, as well as a bevy of grand- and great-grandchildren. Dale, a longtime physician in the city, died three years ago at the age of 93.
Cathy worked as an operating room nurse during the war, while Dale was drafted into the Army to work as an anesthesiologist, their son, Dr. Michael Drake, told the Evansville Courier & Press in 2018.
Just like in the show and movie, Dale said the atmosphere at the MASH unit could swing from fun to deathly serious within seconds.
A mass of injured soldiers could overwhelm the medical staff. Afterward, a lull could descend for days on end.
In the downtime, married doctors constantly chased nurses. Cathy, though, ignored them. And when a handsome, single surgeon from Oklahoma arrived a few months after her, she took a liking to him.
Their only "date" overseas took place during a decidedly non-romantic run to a military post exchange, where Cathy was tasked with buying hordes of Kotex for the other nurses. But after she was sent home, they wrote to each other every day. He sent her roses and a pearl necklace, while she spritzed her letters with perfume, they once told the Evansville Courier. By 1953, they were married, and they moved to Evansville a year later.
In 1970, they visited the set of the film they helped inspire, crossing paths with stars Elliott Gould, Donald Sutherland and Robert Duvall. And when the show was announced, Hornberger introduced them to co-creator Gene Reynolds, who ultimately used them as consultants.
"Our operating room did look much like the one on the show. And the compound where we lived looked exactly like the 20th Century Fox set," she told the Evansville Courier in 1981. "But we didn't have anywhere near the amount of linens those characters use. We'd clean out wounds with a pair of scissors and a towel, and that towel would be rewashed hundreds of times because we never had enough."
The couple went on to appear in multiple documentaries about the show over the years. In her downtime, Cathy loved rooting for Notre Dame, going to the horse races at Ellis Park and playing bridge.
Source: Evansville Courier & Press