Local Rosie the Riveters honored
When the call went out in late February searching for Jefferson County women to honor on the first-ever National Rosie the Riveter Day, at first, organizers came up empty-handed.
After all, even the youngest "Rosie the Riveters" who stepped into the World War II jobs in aviation, munitions, shipbuilding and other fields that supported the country's wartime efforts, are all in their 90s.
But by the time the March 21 event rolled around, two women, now in their 90s, had been identified: longtime Madras resident Irene Prince, 93, and Catherine E. Shaw, 94, who moved to Madras two years ago.
Both were honored last Wednesday, at Erickson Aircraft Collection for their roles working in factories building aircraft during World War II.
The event was the result of a U.S. Senate resolution "to raise awareness of the 16 million women working during World War II."
"They were the ones on the homefront who brought us through the war," said Judy Berg, president of the Crooked River Ranch Mariposa Lily Garden Club, who presented the women with roses. Rose bushes will also be planted in their honor in a garden at the Ranch.
The event was held at Erickson Aircraft Collection, at the Madras Municipal Airport, because of the airport's role during the war.
"Madras was an Army training base for World War II," said Michelle Forster, assistant manager of the museum, which features a collection of 27 aircraft from that era, including the Madras Maiden, a B-17 bomber that served as the backdrop for the ceremony. "Twenty-five of them fly; you'll see our birds fly over once in a while."
The owner of the aircraft, Jack Erickson, moved his collection of World War II-era aircraft to Madras in 2014. "Jack likes preserving history," she said.
Although Erickson started out in the helicopter logging business, his love of flying started in 1955, she said, when he acquired a T-6 Texan.
In the 1980s, he purchased a P-51 Mustang, which is on display at the museum. "He used it like a charter jet," said Forster.
Madras Mayor Royce Embanks read a "Rosie the Riveter" resolution that the Madras City Council will consider adopting at its next meeting, April 10.
"How long has it taken for women to get the parity they didn't have?" asked Embanks, himself a 28-year veteran of the U.S. Army and Air Force.
During the war, he said, women worked and took care of their families, while there was "always the specter of having a (death notification) telegram come."
When veterans returned after the end of the war in 1945, most of the women lost their jobs, said Embanks, who was pleased to see the resolution. "They finally realized women are effective doing any job they want to."
Rosie the Riveter stories
Catherine Shaw, who was accompanied by her son, Dennis Shaw, of Madras, worked in the design department of the Willow Run Bomber Plant, near Ypsilanti, Michigan. The plant was built by the Ford Motor Co. to produce aircraft — particularly the B-24 Liberator heavy bomber — for the war effort.
Born in Aurora, Illinois, Shaw grew up in Monroe, Michigan, and went to work for the nearby plant when she was 18, in early 1942. After enlisting in the Women's Army Air Corps, she was sent to Pecos, Texas, where she was a drill instructor and physical education teacher.
At the Pecos Army Airfield, she met her future husband, Rollo Shaw, who was in the Army Air Corps, serving as a radar installer and operator.
After the war, they moved to Klamath Falls, later spending 40 years living in Olympia, Washington, before returning to Klamath Falls to live in an assisted living center near their daughter, Barbara Lynn Fairbank.
When her husband died in May 2016, they had been married for 71 years. In February 2017, Shaw moved to Madras. In addition to her son and daughter, she has three grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
Shortly after she graduated from high school in 1943, Irene Prince started working at the Boeing B-29 assembly plant in Wichita, Kansas. "I was a riveter on the forward half of the bomb bay section of the B-29," she recalled.
"It was a job that needed to be done, and I could do it," said Prince. "I was real lucky to get it. I don't think I did anything special."
In 1945, she married Donald Prince, and they moved to Los Angeles, and then Sunnyvale, California, while her husband was working for Lockheed and North American Aviation.
"When he was laid off from Lockheed, he took a Union Oil Service Station, in Cupertino, or Sunnyvale," she said.
The Prince family, with sons, Jim, Dennis and Orval, and daughter, Donell (Quinn), moved to Madras in 1975, and started Prince's Automotive. Her husband, who served in the National Guard, died in 1998.
All four of Prince's children still live in Madras. She also has six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren, and is expecting a great-great grandchild.
June and Loyal Miller, of Madras, were also honored with roses. The couple, who are 90 and 95, respectively, have been married nearly 71 years. While Loyal Miller was serving in the U.S. Army as a military policeman in India and Burma, June (Beam) corresponded with him for a year.
After the war, he returned to Idaho, and finally met June, who lived nearby, in person. He moved to Madras in 1946, to farm with his father, and his future wife moved to Redmond later that year. They were married on April 19, 1947.
They have four adult children and took in 75 foster children over a 35-year period.
Dorothy Burgess, also of Madras, said that both of her parents worked on aircraft during the war. "In 1940, just before the war started, my father was drafted to work at Boeing; I was a young kid, not even in school."
"Mom and Dad both worked on B-17s at Plant 2 in South Seattle," said Burgess, whose family moved back to Salem after the war.
Following the rose presentations and stories, the group gathered for a photo, along with members of the VFW Auxiliary.