The Coast Guard this week said farewell to our beloved "Coast Guard Lady” Lois Bouton.
Writing more than 40,000 letters in total, it’s likely that there is a good-natured note from Bouton tucked away in a keepsake box of a shipmate you know.
Bouton died on Jan. 29, at the age of 102. Her fellow service members, friends and family gathered in Rogers, Ark., Monday to honor her life, legacy and enduring impact.
Bouton's memorial service featured an all-female firing party and flag fold team from the Coast Guard Ceremonial Honor Guard, a female bugler from the Coast Guard Band, and many of the active duty and retired service members whose lives were touched by her letters.
A teacher, Bouton enlisted in Coast Guard’s Women’s Reserve (known as the SPARs, “Semper Paratus – Always Ready”) during World War II. She served in multiple duty stations as a radioman third class, often writing to people overseas and in remote locations. Following her service, she returned to teaching for more than 30 years.
Bouton’s ties to the Coast Guard continued through the rest of her life, earning her the nickname “The Coast Guard Lady.” She visited Coast Guard units during family trips, paid personal visits to Coast Guard veterans and wrote thousands of letters to the Coast Guard community - active, reserve, retired, civilian, and family members. She sent more than 1,000 cards on the Coast Guard’s birthday each year.
For her kindness and support, Bouton received many illustrious honors from the Coast Guard and the U.S. government, including the Coast Guard Distinguished Public Service Award and the Department of Defense “Spirit of Hope” award. Her most prized honor was the rank of “Honorary Master Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Coast Guard.”
Her steadfast devotion to the Coast Guard led to personal visits from Coast Guard personnel from all over the world, including present and former Commandants and Master Chief Petty Officers of the Coast Guard. In recent years, newly advanced Coast Guard chief petty officers from the St. Louis area would pay her a visit around her birthday as part of their indoctrination to the chief petty officers corps.
Bouton was preceded in death by her parents, husband William, daughter Betsy Ann Bouton-Jakubik, and sisters Gretchen Guenette and Barbara (Charles) Whitford. The family requests donations in her honor be sent to Grace United Methodist Church of Rogers (1801 S Dixieland Rd, Rogers, AR 72758) or National Coast Guard Museum Association (78 Howard St., Suite A, New London, CT 06320).