Selma Demanes Nimee immigrated from Rachaya, Lebanon, in the early 1900s with her siblings and her mother at the age of 14, finally settling in Spring Valley, Illinois, and being among the founding families of St. George Orthodox Church.
When WW2 broke out, as did so many families in Spring Valley, the Nimee family sent two sons to war on the European front. George and Joseph Nimee, along with their father, Samuel, worked at the Seneca Shipyards and could have applied for a deferment from the draft, but the Nimees, being proud Americans, wanted to defend their country.
Shortly after being shipped to the eastern front of France, Joe was seriously injured by thrown grenades from the Nazis, buried for 2–3 days under rubble during one of the coldest winters on record, sustaining serious injuries to his face, back and legs, and subsequently being taken prisoner of war.
Selma had a deep, abiding faith that was often accompanied by premonitions. About the time that Joe was shot down, Selma was awakened by a nightmare and a nosebleed exclaiming, “Something is wrong with one of the boys!”
Shortly thereafter, the Nimee family received word that Joe was MIA. Not understanding what this meant, Selma understood that he was possibly killed in action. Praying to God to bring him home, she did what only the strength of a mother’s prayer could do.
She humbled herself, crawling on her hands and knees from her home to the church and around the church three times. She was never concerned about how she would look to neighbors, driven only by the conviction that her prayers, through the intercessions of St. George, would protect her son. And while some ridiculed her by calling her crazy, others stood by the roadside and wept and prayed with her.
One woman of the Jewish faith exclaimed years later, “I never want you to forget what your grandmother did!” The night of Joe’s return home to Spring Valley, Selma checked on him, in his room, every half hour as he slept. Distressed by seeing the wounds on his back as he slept, Selma’s daughter Mary comforted her, being thankful that Joe had returned home alive.
Joe’s journey after his capture was nothing short of a miracle by the grace of God and the prayers of a mother. Selma did the one thing she knew how to do with the courage and faith of the women who stood at the foot of the cross: humbling herself before God and turning to the Church for strength.