Kay worked at a defense factory that made transformers for airplanes used in the war. Then she worked in the assembly and repair hangar, where airplanes that were shot down in the war were fixed. Later she worked in Jacksonville, Florida, as a record keeper in a first-aid station’s burn unit where injured sailors were treated.
The camaraderie was part of what Kay loved about being in the Navy. She’ll never forget her time at Hunter College in the Bronx, NY and the girlfriends she made there.
“We were the WAVES, but I was called a ripple because I was so small,” Kay laughed. At 4 feet, 11 inches tall, she needed written approval from President Roosevelt to join the Navy since the height requirement was five feet. “When I marched with all the girls with their long legs, I had to run to keep up,” she recalled.
Both women met the men they would marry while serving their country. Thelma met her husband Robert, a medic from Illinois, and later became a homemaker and mother.
Kay remembered being “in love every week.” She married a man from California, whom she divorced, married and divorced again, and had a successful dancing career. Later, she met her current husband Jerry, who’s been by her side for 60 years.
Coincidentally, the two women who knew each other as teens, moved into houses across the street from each other in Mountaintop. Although they both have limited physical mobility now, their shared connection remains.
Kay summed up her feelings about being a World War II veteran by relating her feelings in a poem about her home. “The house I now live in is not my only home. The other is America for which I’ll never roam…” she wrote. “The home I now live in someday will not be. But my home in America will forever be sweet land of liberty.”