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Westchester Women & War: Portraits

May 26 - September 9, 2012

 

A lifetime of memories separates these two portraits of Myra Sessions Zarcone, but together, they connect two Hudson River Museum projects that honor military women in Westchester County. Nearby and across the nation, our women have always volunteered to serve in the armed forces, even when they had to fight to join, to be ranked as equal to their male soldier colleagues or to overcome racial prejudice. At the height of World War II, Zarcone, who had just enlisted in the Women's Army Corps, visited the museum for a portrait sitting with artist Francis Vandeveer Kughler. (right: Francis Vandeveer Kughler (1901-1970), Pvt. Laura Quartarella, 1944, Women's Army Corps, Pastel drawing, 24 x 19 inches). Half of the eight Quartarella children were in the military. Laura Quartarella's younger sister Nancy has a WAC portrait hanging at right. Her brother Nicholas was in the Army Air Force and Thomas was in the Coast Guard. After World War II, she married Navy Sergeant Edward Chema, who became a rare three-war veteran, also serving in Korea and Vietnam.)

Museum Director H. Armour Smith and Kughler had conceived an ambitious plan to "ensure that future generations have a living record of our fighting women." In November 1943 the Herald Statesmen announced that every Yonkers woman who enlisted before Pearl Harbor Day would have her portrait made in oil or pastel. In fact, the project continued into 1945.

Members of the WAC honor roll hang here, joined by a new group of women soldiers and veterans who have called Westchester home. Recently, the Museum interviewed these women and commissioned their portraits from noted photographer Margaret Moulton, also a local resident. Clips from these conversations are featured in the film in this gallery and on the Museum's YouTube channel. From World War II to Operation New Dawn, Westchester's women soldiers all have stories to inspire our thoughtful admiration and thanks.

 


Exhibition object labels - All collection of the Hudson River Museum

 

Pvt. Myra Sessions Zarcone, 1944
Women's Army Corps veteran
Pastel drawing by Francis V. Kughler
24 x 19 inches
 
Zarcone recalls that she passed the WAC recruiting table every afternoon on the way home from work at the telephone company. Her father, Clyde Sessions, had died when she was 11, and she went to work after high school to help her mother support four daughters and two sons.
 
Deployed to Whitehorse, in Canada's Yukon Territory, the private was put to work as a phone operator. Whitehorse was part of a route to ferry planes from Russia to the United States. She met her husband, military policeman Joseph Zarcone, when both were working the graveyard shift, and their union was celebrated as the "first WAC wedding" on the base.

 
Pvt. Myra Sessions Zarcone, 2012
Women's Army Corps
Photograph by Margaret Moulton
20 x 24 inches
 
Nearly 70 years after she served in the WAC, Zarcone is still proud of her service and sees it as the defining expericnce of her life. When she turned 91, her family put a photograph of her in uniform on the birthday cake.

 

Yonkers WAC portraits - by Francis Vandeveer Kughler (1901-1970)


Lt. Joanne L. Coates, 1944
WAC Recruiter sent to Yonkers & other cities.
Pastel drawing by Francis V. Kughler
24 x 19 inches
 
World War II was the first time women were officially mobilized across all the armed forces. Joanne Coates was barely out of Bryn Mawr College when she applied to the Officer's Candidate School of the Women's Auxiliary Army Corps (WAAC), the precursor to the WAC. In July of 1943, the transition from the WAAC to the WAC meant that the women soldiers were more fully integrated as a branch of the Army and recruitment efforts intensified.
 
Lt. Coates traveled to New Jersey and Delaware, then Yonkers, on a mission to increase WAC enlistment. She had studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and appreciated the power of art to promote her cause. When she asked the Hudson River Museum to recommend artists to design recruitment posters, she initiated a much larger project and ended up in a portrait herself. Kughler captured Coates' charisma, which must have made her a very effective advocate. She worked in Yonkers until mid 1944, swearing in nearly half of the women in these pictures.

 

Army Families - (some of the WACs with brothers, sisters or fathers in WWII)

 

Pvt. Nancy Quartarella, 1945
Women's Army Corps
Oil painting by Francis V. Kughler
20 x 16 inches
 
When Nancy Quartarella enlisted, she had three siblings and a brother-in-law in the service. She was the second youngest sister of five: her older sister Laura has a WAC portrait hanging to the left. The youngest, Mildred, was just a teenager during the war.
 
Both of their older brothers served in Europe. Nicholas was in the Army Air Force in Italy. Thomas was in the Coast Guard during the war and went on to become a master sergeant in the Army, retiring in 1965.
 
Nancy Quartarella was a beautician before the war, but in the WAC, trained as a medical technician. She told the Herald Statesman: "with so many members of my family in the service, I'm certainly happy to be one of them."
 

Pvt. Dorothy Spaulding, 1945
Women's Army Corps
Oil painting by Francis V. Kughler
20 x 16 inches
 
No stranger to sacrifice for your country, Dorothy Spaulding lost her soldier brother, Sgt. Ralph Spaulding, when he was killed in action in October 1944, just a few months before she enlisted.
 
Their mother had died before the war, and before Dorothy Spaulding signed up for the WAC, she was living at the Y.W.C.A. and working at the Commodore Restaurant. She told her enlistment officer "I chose the Medical Department because I feel that their need is the greatest and I can do more good there than anywhere else."
 
 
 
Tec 4 Irene Helena Wramble, 1944
Women's Army Corps
Pastel drawing by Francis V. Kughler
25 x 20 inches
 
When Irene Wrambel left her job at the Kress five and dime store to join the WAC in 1944, her big brother, TSgt. Eugene Wrambel, was in the Army, stationed in South Dakota. Like many Yonkers veterans of World War II, she and her brother were first generation Americans-their father was a baker from Poland.
 
 
Pvt. Laura Quartarella, 1944
Women's Army Corps
Pastel drawing by Francis V. Kughler
24 x 19 inches
 
Half of the eight Quartarella children were in the military. Laura Quartarella's younger sister Nancy has a WAC portrait hanging at right. Her brother Nicholas was in the Army Air Force and Thomas was in the Coast Guard. After World War II, she married Navy Sergeant Edward Chema, who became a rare three-war veteran, also serving in Korea and Vietnam.
 
 
 
Pvt. Louise Theresa Bendick, 1944
Women's Army Corps
Pastel drawing by Francis V. Kughler
24 x 19 7/8 inches
 
Louise Bendick enlisted in the WACs in 1944, following the footsteps of her brother John, a Corporal who was first involved with chemical warfare in Italy, and later a fire-fighter in Germany. Before joining the service, Bendick was a working woman, employed by the Claremont Confectionary Store in Yonkers. In the Army she was stationed at Fort Slocum and in San Francisco, doing clerical work for the Transportation Corps.
 
 
 
Pvt. Francis Calder Emerson, 1944
Women's Army Corps
Pastel drawing by Francis V. Kughler
25 1/8 x 19 7/8 inches
 
Frances Emerson and her extended family gave their all for the war effort. When she enlisted in 1944, her husband, Pvt. Walter H. Emerson, Jr., was already an Army ambulance driver in England and all three of his brothers-Ralph, Robert and Herbert-were also serving with the U.S. Army overseas. In October, Ralph was killed fighting in France with the 9th Armored Division. In 1945, her husband was a Nazi prisoner of war for several months, but released safely. Two of her cousins were also serving. Prior to enlisting with the WAC, she was an active member of the Red Cross in Yonkers.
 
 
 
Pvt. Frances Depole, 1944
Women's Army Corps
Pastel drawing by Francis V. Kughler
25 1/8 x 20 inches
 
Frances Depole was sworn into the WAC the day before her younger brother Henry took his physical exam for the Army. Their middle brother Albert, an Army lieutenant, was already overseas. Her Italian born father was also a veteran, having fought with the U.S. Army in France during World War I.
 
At time of her enlisting, Private Depole was quoted in the Herald Statesman as saying, "I want my brothers home again, that's why I'm joining the WAC." Tragically, Albert died in combat in Italy later that same year.
 
Prior to enlisting Frances Depole was employed by the North American Philips Company, Inc., in Dobbs Ferry. In 1949, she married Army veteran Frank Stangarone.

 
Pvt. Jane Estelle Mooney, 1944
Women's Army Corps
Pastel drawing by Francis V. Kughler
24 x 19 inches
 
When Jane Mooney enlisted in 1944, her big sister and brother, Sgt. Aileen DeBrocke and Sgt. John Mooney, were already in the Army; and her brother-in-law, Sergeant John M. DeBrocke, was deployed overseas.
 
Like many WACs, Mooney was first shipped out to Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia, for training and job placement. She chose to join the Air-WACs, a division under the Army Air Forces, and worked as a clerk typist at Rosecrans Field, in St. Joseph, Missouri, only 75 miles away from her sister's post in Topeka, Kansas.
 
On furlough she told the Herald Statesman, "Army life is wonderfuljust tell the Yonkers girls to enlist and find out for themselves-they'll love it too, just as every other WAC does."

 
Pvt. Kathleen A. Dupree, 1944
Women's Army Corps
Pastel drawing by Francis V. Kughler
24 1/8 x 19 1/8 inches
 
Kathleen Dupree's brother Charles Mayerhofer was a Corporal in the Coast Artillery of the U.S. Army. She had married after high school and, when she enlisted, was working for the Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company in New York City.
 
On July 1, 1944, the Herald Statesman published an article encouraging families to strive for total participation in the war effort: "Army families join 'All-out' for Recruits." The families of Dupree and Jane Mooney (also in this exhibition) were both listed. The following week was designated WAC week, with activities including the special programs for mothers whose daughters were serving overseas and stateside. Dupree's mother, Mrs. Charles Mayerhofer, attended and was one of the mothers who went to Steadman's Music Shop to record "voice letters" to their daughters. They then visited the Museum to see a display of the WAC portraits, which had been completed so far.
 
 
 
Pvt. Jennie George Lee, 1944
Women's Army Corps
Pastel drawing by Francis V. Kughler
24 x 19 inches
 
Jennie Lee's husband, half-brother, and father were already part of the war effort when she joined in 1944. Her husband, Kenneth Lee, was a warrant officer in the Merchant Marine; and her half-brother, William Robinson, Jr., was a Navy seaman serving abroad. Her father, Corporal Harry C. Green, was stationed in Virginia. She was first based at the Air Service Training Command Center.
 
Lee was born in Mount Vernon and moved to Yonkers as a child when her mother remarried. Before joining the service, she worked as a layout operator for the GM Eastern Aircraft Division in Tarrytown.
 
 
Pvt. Julie Bernadette Topolosky, 1944
Women's Army Corps
Pastel drawing by Francis V. Kughler
23 7/8 x 18 7/8 inches
 
In 1944, the Herald Statesman ran an article on Julie Topolosky (also called Julia) and two of her brothers: "They're Serving the Nation on Land, Sea and in the Air." Her older brother, Michael fought with the Army infantry in the Battle of the Bulge and was reported missing in action. The Nazis had captured him but then released him after several months. Julie's younger brother Joseph was a Navy seaman, and her WAC station was with the Army Air Forces, at Biggs Field, Texas.
 
There were eight Topolosky children. The eldest, Mary, had been born in Slovakia before the parents emigrated. She was the mother of Yonkers WAC Marie O'Buck. (The portrait of Julie's niece is on the opposite wall.)
 
In 1946, Julie Topolosky married New Jersey Air Force veteran Harry Morere.
 
 
Pvt. Florence Wallace, 1944
Women's Army Corps
Oil painting by Francis V. Kughler
25 1/8 x 20 inches
 
Florence Wallace worked as a surgical technician in the WAC. Her brother, George B. Wallace, was also in the Army, serving with the Medical Corps. They were originally from New Hampshire.
 
While stationed at Camp Polk in Louisiana, she met her future husband, Arthur B. Winget, who spent five years in the Army, including in the Pacific Theater.

 
Pvt. Retta Shaefer, 1944
Women's Army Corps
Oil painting by Francis V. Kughler
25 1/4 x 20 inches
 
Retta (Henrietta) Shaefer was not the first in her family to join the war effort. Her brother was also in the Army, Pvt. Ross Shaefer of the Signal Corps in the South Pacific and her sister, Cpl. Nancy Shaefer, was a WAC with the Intelligence Department of the Army Air Forces.
 
Most of the Yonkers WACs had full-time jobs before they enlisted. Retta Shaefer left a position at Prudential Life Insurance Company. Like other Army women, she stated that she hoped their efforts would help end the war sooner. No one hoped that more than people like her with family members fighting overseas.
 
 

Lt. Irene Crimmins, 1944
Women's Army Corps
Oil painting by Francis V. Kughler
 
 
Irene Crimmins was a Yonkers librarian before enlisting in the WAC in 1944. Her brother Col. Thomas R. Crimmins, eight years her senior, was serving with the U.S. Army in India.
 
Lt. Catherine Perry administered the WAC enlistment oath to both Irene Crimmins and Retta Shaefer (whose portrait hangs nearby). Lt. Perry, the WAC recruiting officer who came to Yonkers after Lt. Coates transferred, asked the girls their reasons for their enlisting. Both answered that they hoped they would help end the war sooner. Crimmins added:
 
I think if our grandmothers could go across the continent in covered wagons and help our men to settle this country, the least the women of this generation can do is enlist in the Army and stand behind our boys.
 
 

"Rosie the Riveter" - (women with factory jobs before enlisting)


Cpl. Rosemary Corbalis
, 1945
Women's Army Corps
Oil painting by Francis V. Kughler
 
 
Millions of women entered the workforce during World War II. Rosemary Corbalis had a job in the Controller's Office of the New York Central Railroad before she became a WAC. Desk jobs may have been more available with men gone at war, but women had done clerical work for decades. The big push was for more women to fill men's jobs in factories with government defense contracts. The WACs whose portraits hang on this wall were some of those workers.
 
As a WAC, Corbalis worked in the medical corps and was deployed Wiesbaden, Germany, at the end of the war. Both of her brothers were in World War II: Robert, a lieutenant senior grade in the U.S. Coast Guard and James, Jr., in the Navy.

 
Pvt. Charlotte Harris, 1945
Women's Army Corps
Oil painting by Francis V. Kughler
20 x 16 inches
 
Prior to enlisting, Charlotte Harris, like Abigaile Halley, was with Otis Elevator Company for three years. Not quite "Rosie the Riveter," she worked in the offices. She lived uphill from the Hudson River Museum on Amackassin Terrace.
 
Harris met her future husband, Sgt. Cletus Cauthen of the Army Air Forces, when they were both stationed at Shaw Field in Sumter, South Carolina. They were married at the Warburton Avenue Baptist Church in 1947.
 

Pvt. Abigaile Halley, 1945
Women's Army Corps
Oil painting by Francis V. Kughler
20 x 16 inches
 
Abigaile Webber Halley attended New York City's Eastern Business School after high school but then worked for Otis Elevator Company during the first part of World War II. Otis was one the major employees in Yonkers.
 
Soon after enlisting in the WAC, she married her first husband, Thomas A. Halley, who had been fighting in the South Pacific. It was a wartime romance that did not last, and they divorced in the next year.
 
 
Pvt. Loretta Cahill, 1943
Women's Army Corps
Pastel drawing by Francis V. Kughler
24 x 19 inches
 
Another working woman joining the war effort, Loretta Cahill had a job at Yonkers' Alexander Smith & Sons Carpet Company, where her father also worked at the local carpet factory as a weaver and loom fixer. One of her roles in the U.S. Army was an Air Traffic Controller. While in the Army she met and married Ward L. Kunz at Kearney Air Base on April 24, 1945.

 
Cpl. Jeanette Henriques, 1944
Women's Army Corps
Pastel drawing by Francis V. Kughler
25 1/8 x 20 1/8 inches
 
Jeannette Henriques worked in Tarrytown at GM Eastern Aircraft before becoming a WAC. After basic training she was shipped to Indiana for Medical Technician School.

 
Pvt. Marguerite M. Chase, 1944
Women's Army Corps
Pastel drawing by Francis V. Kughler
24 1/8 x 19 inches
 
Marguerite Chase, like a few of the other Yonkers WACs, first worked at GM Eastern Aircraft in Tarrytown. But, a year after her brothers joined the armed forces, she "just wasn't content to be safe at home working in an aircraft plant."
 
She joined the WAC in January 1944, and became known as "a girl with a star-spangled heart." She was assigned to Douglas Army Air Field, where she inspected B25 Mitchell bombers used in training. The Herald Statesman ran an article about Chase, with a photograph of her inspecting an airplane window.
 
Civil Rights were at a crossroads in the armed forces of World War II. Many aspects of living quarters and assignments were still segregated, yet the Army made an effort to recruit African American women and gave them many opportunities and rewards not yet offered in the civilian world.

 
Pvt. Abagail Bovshow, 1944
Women's Army Corps
Pastel drawing by Francis V. Kughler
24 x 19 inches
 
Abagail Bovshaw attended the Yonkers Defense School, designed to prepare women for wartime factory jobs. Prior to enlisting the Women's Army Corps she worked with her father, who operated a grocery store in Riverdale. She was initially stationed at Fort Ogelthorpe, Georgia, where many WACs underwent basic training, and was later transferred to an Air Force unit at Colorado Springs.

 
Pvt. Rachele Caione, c. 1943-45
Women's Army Corps
Oil painting by Francis V. Kughler
25 1/4 x 20 inches
 
The memorable image of "Rosie the Riveter" overshadows the historical reality of blue-collar labor for families with modest resources. Yonkers was a factory town and there had always been women in manual jobs, especially immigrants and first generation Americans. The war just meant that there were more openings and for a wider range of jobs than had previously been offered to women.
 
Rachele Caione worked at GM Eastern Aircraft in Tarrytown before she enlisted. She spent part of the war stationed at Fort Slocum, New York. Her brother, Sgt. Pangrazie Caione, served overseas with the Quartermaster Corps, U.S. Army.

 
Pvt. Mary Neary, 1944
Women's Army Corps
Oil painting by Francis V. Kughler
25 1/4 x 20 inches
 
One of the earliest Army women in Yonkers, Mary Neary joined the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) in January 1943-several months before it transitioned into the WAC. She went to Iowa for elementary training, where she and other WAAC enlistees received equipment, classification tests, and drill exercises. Then, they were shipped off for "more detailed military training preparing them to replace a man in a non-combat Army job." For her, that was an airplane mechanic at Turner Field in Georgia.
 
After her WAAC service, Neary did inspections at Yonkers' Habirshaw Wire and Cable factory (a division of Phelps Dodge) and acted as an air raid warden. Kughler painted her in October 1944, when she signed up with the WAC for another tour of duty. She wanted to return to her old job and continue servicing planes.
 

 
Spc. Jean Logan, 1944
Navy WAVE
Pastel drawing by Francis V. Kughler
 
 
Factory jobs and air warden shifts were not the only ways to contribute to the war effort. Jean Logan, a Navy WAVE specialist 3rd class, had been a radio entertainer and so used her singing talent, along with others WAVEs, at a "Stay Home Night" in Hastings-on-Hudson. The federal government encouraged citizens to patronize entertainment close to home to conserve gas and tires and to keep transportation arteries free of non-essential traffic.
 
Not long after she enlisted, Jean became engaged to Midshipman John H. Dorsay, U.S. Navy Reserve.

Woman's Place in War - (some of the 239 Army jobs for women)



Pvt. June Elayne Ewart, 1944
Women's Army Corps
Oil painting by Francis V. Kughler
25 x 20 1/8 inches
 
Nearly half of all WACs, about 40,000 out of an eventual total of 100,000, worked for the Army Air Forces. Promotional booklets such as "Be an Air-WAC" influenced women like June Ewart to apply for that area of work. The air bases welcomed their assistance in stateside staffing so that men could be shifted to the fronts.
 
Prior to enlisting Ewart had graduated from Beauty Culture School in the Bronx and attended Business College in Connecticut.
 
 
 
Pvt. Camille I. Olgee, 1944
Women's Army Corps
Oil painting by Francis V. Kughler
25 1/8 x 20 inches
 
Camille Olgee's work in World War II inspired lifelong service in the American Legion as a commander of the Yonkers Women's Post and Moses Taylor Post 136 in Mount Kisco.
 
Educated at Columbia and with a background in public relations, Olgee joined the American's Legion's "Pilgrimage for Peace." which traveled to Europe in 1957 to strengthen the bonds of friendship and understanding among the nations. She stated "I've always been interested in both American Legion work and travel and I'm looking forward to this trip for opportunities to talk face-to-face with peace-loving people, the women especially, on our mutual problems."
 
 

Pvt. Mary Kurilecz, 1944
Women's Army Corps
Oil painting by Francis V. Kughler
25 1/8 x 20 inches
 
With a background in nursing, Mary Kurilecz attended Surgical Technician School after basic training. Her brother was also in the Army, serving with the medical field. Prior to the War, she had attended the Cochran School of Nursing and worked at St. John's Riverside Hospital.
 
 
 
Pvt. Elizabeth Kocis, 1944
Women's Army Corps
Oil painting by Francis V. Kughler
25 1/4 x 20 inches
 
Elizabeth Kocis joined the Air-WAC and worked with her friend Camille Olgee at Mitchel Field in Long Island. Like some of the other WACs, she was an Air Raid Warden before enlisting.
 
She and her parents were recent immigrants, coming from the Czech Republic soon after 1920. She was an active member of the Slovak Circle, and was considered a linguist as she spoke Russian, Polish and Slavic.

 
Pvt. Helen Harrison, 1945
Women's Army Corps
Oil painting by Francis V. Kughler
20 x 16 x 1 inches
 
Helen Harrison's background and training as a nurse at St. Joseph's Hospital in Yonkers made her a valuable asset for the WAC.

 
Sgt. Mary Virginia Nardy, 1943
Women's Army Corps
Pastel drawing by Francis V. Kughler
24 x 19 inches
 
Working in France after D-Day, Virginia Nardy served as a telephone operator and received a Theater Certificate of Merit for her outstanding performance of duty.
 
Before enlisting as an Air-WAC with the Army Air Forces, she had been an active Air Raid Warden as part of the Office of Civilian Defense. Nardy was active in many clubs and activities, including the Yonkers Republicans and even the Yonkers Motorcycle Club.

 
Pvt. Jeanne S. Solimine, c. 1943-45
Women's Army Corps
Oil painting by Francis V. Kughler
24 x 19 inches
 
Jeanne Solimine was employed at Habirshaw Cable and Wire at the time of her recruitment. However, she was trained as a nurse, and had attended the Ballard School of Practical Nursing. Previously a member of the Red Cross, she resumed her medical career and served as an Army Surgical technician attached to the top secret 10th Mountain Division Winter Warriors, Camp Hope, Colorado.
 
Solimine received a Key to the City of Yonkers for her military service during World War II. Her brother, Victor Solimine was a member of the Army Air Force in Texas.
 

Pvt. Anne Schall Bodian, c. 1943-45
Women's Army Corps
Pastel drawing by Francis V. Kughler
25 1/8 x 20 1/8 inches
 
 
In a poster to promote the WAC as a career choice, the Army claimed to have 239 kinds of jobs for women. These ranged from typist and telephone operator to motor pool driver and code breaker. Anne Schall Bodian was a cryptographic operator (working with codes) at the U.S. Army Signal Intelligence Service in Virginia.
 
Anne grew up in Yonkers, but was married and working at the Home Owners Loan Corporation in New York City when the United States entered the war. Her husband, Sgt. Albert Bodian, was with the U.S. Army.

 
Pvt. Lucretia Grace Antonacci, 1943
Women's Army Corps
Pastel drawing by Francis V. Kughler
24 1/8 x 19 inches
 
Lucretia Antonacci was one of the first WACs to have her portrait painted by Kughler. She enlisted into the Corps as an Air-Wac in 1943, a new program that allowed her to choose the area of service she wanted to join.
 
Antonacci was an Italian immigrant, born in 1922. Before the entering the service she worked in Yonkers at Alexander Smith Carpet Company, which had a defense contract during World War II to make cotton duck.

 

Calling all Ages

 

Pvt. Marie P. O'Buck, 1945
Women's Army Corps
Oil painting by Francis V. Kughler
24 x 18 inches
 
The age requirement for WACs was 21 to 45, and Yonkers recruits represented the full range of those years. Marie O'Buck was only 20, but women that young could join with their parents' permission. Sworn in to the WAC on her birthday, she said, "I'm happy to be a member of the Army, because I think that that is where I can do the best for the good of the war effort." She had family members serving: Joseph O'Buck, her brother, was stationed at Pearl Harbor, and her aunt, Julie Topolosky, was also a WAC.
 
Before enlisting, Marie O'Buck took an aeronautical program at the vocational high school in Yonkers, to prepare her for home-front factory work, and she worked at Eastern Aircrafts in Tarrytown.

 
TSgt. Gerda Thomas, 1944
Women's Army Corps
Oil painting by Francis V. Kughler
25 1/8 x 20 inches
 
One of the oldest WACs, Gerda Thomas was born in Germany 1897 and was past the stated enlistment age of 45 years. Before the war she vacationed in America and decided to immigrate. She then operated a cross country ski school in upstate New York and became a citizen in 1935.
 
Thomas had done photographic work for the AGFA Film Corporation in Germany, and in the WAC, attended a specialist school for training as an X-Ray technician. She was assigned to the Wakeman General Hospital at Camp Atterbury, Indiana. After the war, she remained in WAC service until 1948.
 

Cpl. Helen Organ, 1945
Women's Army Corps
Oil painting by Francis V. Kughler
20 x 16 inches
 
At age 20, Helen Organ was one of the youngest local WAC enlistees, thus she needed parental permission to join. She trained as a medical technician in West Virginia and earned promotions to the rank of technician fifth grade.
 
Before enlisting, she was a graduate of Hastings-on-Hudson High School and employed by the Ethyl Corporation.

 
Pvt. Flora M. Murray, 1945
Women's Army Corps
Oil painting by Francis V. Kughler
20 x 16 x 1 inches
 
Murray was 36 when she joined the war effort and chose to work as a stenographer for the Army ground forces. Like many families of the Yonkers WACs, Murray's family had recently come to the United States. Born in Ireland, she immigrated with her family in 1911 when she was two years old.
 
After World War II, Murray continued to serve in the Army during the Korean War, and later became a Smithsonian Institution war historian.

 
Pvt. Alice R. Kelly, 1945
Women's Army Corps
Oil painting by Francis V. Kughler
20 x 16 inches
 
Kelly was born in 1910 and about 35 years old when she enlisted in 1945. She was one of the many WACs whose families had recently come to America. Her father was born in Ireland, and she was of the first generation to be born in the United States.

 
Sgt. Eva A. Tompkins, 1943
Women's Army Corps
Pastel drawing by Francis V. Kughler
24 x 19 inches
 
One of the first WACs to be sworn in, Tompkins was 22 when she enlisted in 1943. A graduate of Roosevelt High School, Eva had continued her education by attending the Butler Business School. She was involved in the Business Girls' Professional Club and assisted in the war effort as a member of the American Legion Auxilliary. Following her honorable discharge in 1946, she worked at Alexander Smith and Sons Carpet Company.

 
Pvt. Evelyn Corey, c. 1943-45
Women's Army Corps
Pastel drawing by Francis V. Kughler
25 1/4 x 20 1/8 inches
 
Born 1904, Evelyn Ann Corey was almost 40 years old at the time of enlisting in the Women Army Corps in 1944. She lived with her sister, Mrs. Mabelle Beerman, in Yonkers, and had been employed by Mrs. Marie G. Lane, in Scarsdale, prior to enlisting. She was maid of honor at the wedding of her niece Jean Beerman, who was also enlisted with the WACs.
 

Sgt. Lois Wilson, 1944
Women's Army Corps
Pastel drawing by Francis V. Kughler
23 x 20 1/8 inches
 
At age 39, Lois Wilson had experience as a teacher and artist that qualified her to start as an assistant occupational therapist with the rank of sergeant. She was from Fayette, a small town in Alabama, and originally came north to study art in Boston. Before the war she traveled to the major art centers of France and Italy, as well as took architecture classes at Alabama Polytechnic Institute. After leaving the WAC, she became a prolific Yonkers folk artist, who donated all of her work to her hometown.
 
 
 
Pvt. Eleanor M. Scapoli, 1944
Women's Army Corps
Pastel drawing by Francis V. Kughler
27 3/4 x 20 inches
 
One of the older WACs painted by Kughler, Eleanor Scapoli was born in 1912 and already widowed when she served with the Army Air Forces. In 1945, she was stationed at Mitchell Field on Long Island and expecting a transfer overseas; and her brother, Sergeant Frederick Miller, was with the Army medical corps in France.
 
Scapoli worked for the Suburban Bus Company prior to joining the WAC. She is credited with being one of the first women bus drivers in Yonkers, and perhaps Westchester.
 

Pvt. Rose Untener, 1945
Women's Army Corps
Oil painting by Francis V. Kughler
19 3/4 x 15 7/8 inches
 
Several of the Yonkers WACs, like Rose Untener, were born in 1925 and not old enough to sign up until the last year of conflict. They had spent their teenage years under the cloud of war.
 
Before joining the WAC, Rose worked as an inspector at the North American Philips Company in Dobbs Ferry, where her mother and Pvt. Helen Harrison's mother also worked. Helen and Rose were sworn into the WAC together, in a ceremony in the Post Office building in Yonkers. They both choose careers in the Army Medical Department. Harrison's portrait is at the other end of the wall.
 

Contemporary portraits - By Margaret Moulton

 
Seaman Olivia Hooker, 2012
Coast Guard SPAR veteran
Photograph by Margaret Moulton
24 x 20 inches
 
Olivia Hooker has lived in Westchester ever since she came to New York for graduate work at Columbia Teachers College on the G.I. Bill. As a young girl in Oklahoma, she survived the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921 before her family moved to Ohio. After college, she participated in the national efforts of her sorority, Delta Sigma Theta, to influence the Navy to accept African American women into their ranks. Even after integration was announced, her Navy application was rejected twice and she decided to opt for the Coast Guard, which is affiliated with the Navy in times of war.
 
The women in the Coast Guard were called SPARS, derived from its motto "semper paratus" (always ready). Olivia Hooker was the first and one of only a few Black women in the Coast Guard during World War II. All were deployed to the First Naval District in Boston, the only Coast Guard station that would accept them.
 
After the war, she became a Fordham professor and later was a psychological consultant to the Yonkers Schools.

 
Sgt. Gloria Sosin, 2012
Women's Army Corps veteran
Photograph by Margaret Moulton
24 x 20 inches
 
"I thought the War was the most important event of my life and the lives of my generationand I wanted to serve," Gloria Sosin affirms of her World War II experiences. Her parents, Isaac and Edith Donen, fled czarist Russia to settle in Rye; and before enlisting, Sosin was teaching Russian to Army soldiers in Manhattan. She enlisted in the WAC at the post office in Grand Central Terminal. Because she had taken a few psychology courses in college, Sosin was stationed at Mason General Hospital on Long Island (used by the Army for psychiatric care). She ended up putting her English degree to good use in the hospital's public relations department.
 
After the war, she met and married fellow veteran Gene Sosin, a Navy lieutenant, when they were both doing graduate work at Columbia on the G.I. Bill. Over the years she has continued to write, including a book about her father's letters home during World War I. She also wrote a book about the post-war work she and her husband performed in Germany with the Harvard Refugee Interview Project, which was established to interview refugees from communist Russia.

 
Cpl. Margaret Lamar, 2012
U.S. Army veteran
Photograph by Margaret Moulton
24 x 20 inches
 
During the Korean War, Margaret Lamar worked as a medical technician at the Army hospital in Frankfurt, Germany. Today, wounded U.S. soldiers are also sent to Germany, but to the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center.
 
Lamar is from a large family in Columbia, South Carolina. Her father was wounded in the first World War and could not work, so family resources were limited. She decided to join the Navy to support herself and gain educational opportunities. Her mother asked that she switch to the Army, to enlist with the daughter of a family friend.
 
Lamar had no previous medical experience but was assigned based on her aptitude test. There were only 5 or 6 other African American women stationed with her in Germany, but she has fond memories of their friendships and the weekend tourist trips. After her service, she used her medical training to obtain a civilian post at the V.A. hospital in Montrose, where she worked until she retired.
 

Lt. Col. E. Barbara Wiggins, 2012
U.S. Army, retired, Legion of Merit
Photograph by Margaret Moulton
24 x 20 inches
 
Barbara Wiggins will tell you that she "Hit the military at exactly the right time. Not because everything was perfect but many of the things the civilian world was catching up on-the prototype was in the military." She joined the Army just after the Korean War because she believed it offered a career path for women, but she was generally the only African American woman in her units over the years. Most of the prejudice she encountered, especially from other female soldiers, she regarded as ignorance and addressed it by making up her mind to be "the best thing since sliced bread in that platoon."
 
In fact the army did recognize and reward Wiggins for her hard work. As an administrative officer, she was the adjutant at Fort Mead, Maryland, during the Vietnam War and retired in 1976 as a Lieutenant Colonel. Her husband Charles, also a veteran, did a tour of duty in Vietnam. In retirement, she is committed to giving back and often speaks to young women, to make them aware of the opportunities the military can offer to women of all backgrounds.
 

 
Maj. Heather X. Cereste, M.D., 2012
Air Force Combat Veteran
Photograph by Margaret Moulton
24 x 20 inches
 
Heather Cereste grew up in Maine, but her medical studies and work as a doctor have brought her to Manhattan and then Westchester County. When she was considering career paths after college, her father suggested the Navy, and she quipped, "but that's for boys." Nevertheless, she was inspired by 9/11 to become Air Force doctor. In 2007, she served in Iraq with a Medical Operations Squadron. "Just think MASH---it was a tent hospital," she says.
 
One of the most surprising and memorable things for her was how much her job involved medical care for Iraqi civilians, who would come to the American doctors for assistance. She stocked smaller scale emergency equipment to use on children and twice saved infants suffering from life-threatening infections. Now working in private practice, she has particular interest and expertise in gerontology and medical ethics.
 
 
 
Col. Mary Westmoreland, 2012
U.S. Army, retired, Legion of Merit
Photograph by Margaret Moulton
24 x 20 inches
 
In the mid 1970s, elimination of the military draft, combined with the earlier removal of a 2% cap on the number of women soldiers, led to more opportunities for women. Col. Westmoreland (at the time Pawloski) was married, with two young children. The U.S. Coast Guard Reserve, offering part-time, weekend work and retirement benefits, advertised itself as the perfect choice for women in her position and she answered the call. Her decision was the springboard to a distinguished career of 31 years in the U.S. Army.
 
Deployed in 1990 to Operation Desert Shield-Desert Storm, Westmoreland says she was more worried about leaving her teenage children than about herself. In Saudi Arabia, she was in charge of several detainee centers, maintaining Geneva conventions for compassionate treatment of their prisoners. After 9/11 she relocated to the Pentagon for the last several years of her career, with critical responsibilities stateside during the Global War on Terrorism. Having overcome prejudice and skepticism during her own career, Westmoreland remains a tireless advocator for women soldiers and veterans.

 
Col. Theresa Mercado-Sconzo, 2012
U.S. Army Reserve, Nursing Corps
Photograph by Margaret Moulton
24 x 20 inches
 
When Theresa Mercado-Sconzo was deployed to the Middle East, her teenage son started a blog so that he and other family and friends could keep in touch with the "Major Mom." In 2005, she served in Iraq as a nurse, with the 344th Combat Support Hospital Battalion, stationed at Prison Abu Graib. There she cared for wounded US soldiers as well as Iraqi detainees.
 
Mercado-Sconzo has also worked with embassy officials as part of the 353rd Civil Affairs unit. One of her tours involved humanitarian work in Africa, providing veterinary care for sick livestock and assisting in water purification efforts. Now she is part of the 352nd Combat Support Hospital Battalion, based at Camp Parks in Dublin, CA, where she has just earned the job of commander.

 
Spc. Rapcelies Almonte, 2012
New York Army National Guard
Photograph by Margaret Moulton
24 x 20 inches
 
Rapcelies Almonte moved to New Jersey from the Dominican Republic when she was in high school. Driving past an armory on the way to school each day inspired to join the National Guard and defend the freedom of her new country. She was also inspired by her father's service in Vietnam with the U.S. Army. Since she was only 17 years old, her parents had to appove her enlistment.
 
Even though women do not technically serve on the front lines of combat, their roles have dramatically changed since World War II. When Almonte was deployed to Iraq in 2008, she was attached to an infantry batallion, along with eight other women. She is now afiliated with the Yonkers Armory's 101st Expeditionary Signal Batallion, which is scheduled to go to Afganistan in August.

 
TSgt. Crystal Radcliff, 2011
New York Air National Guard; U.S. Navy veteran
Photograph by Margaret Moulton
20 x 24 inches
 
Crystal Radcliff is a Navy veteran of Operation Desert Shield-Operation Desert Storm, the Middle East war of the 1990s. Today she works full-time in the Support Squadron of the New York Air National Guard's 105th Airlift Wing at Stewart Air National Guard Base, near Newburgh. In 2011, she was nominated for Airman of the Year.
 
Growing up poor in White Plains, but with loving and supportive working class parents, Radcliff joined the military to ensure a good life for her daughter and thinks it is the best decision she ever made. Her late father, a custodian in the White Plains schools, was proud of her career choice. "There was an article in the paper about me joining the Navy, and he kept that folded up in his wallet until the day he died. I have it in my wallet now."
 

Maj. Tanya Pennella, 2012
New York Army National Guard
Photograph by Margaret Moulton
24 x 20 inches
 
Tanya Pennella realized just how critical her job in Iraq was when she saw news coverage of troop movements that had been based on intelligence she and her team delivered to generals. She was deployed to Iraq in 2009 with New York Army National Guard 53rd Army Liaison Team. Her work meant she frequently traveled in convoys through dangerous areas "outside the wire"-a more updated reference than "the front."
 
Currently she lives in her hometown of Somers and works as training coordinator at Camp Smith in Peekskill. She has visited schools to talk to students and also tries to spread awareness of Westchester's many soldiers in the Reserves and National Guard. Their contributions and struggles can be less apparent to the public because they live in their own homes, not on military bases, which would offer more recognition and support services for soldiers and their families.

 
Sgt. Kristen Walker, 2012
New York Army National Guard
Photograph by Margaret Moulton
24 x 20 inches
 
Yonkers is home to the New York Army National Guard's 101st Expeditionary Signal Batallion, where Sgt. Walker works full-time. She grew up in Kingston and worked in mortgage banking before realizing that she felt a void in her life and decided to enlist in the National Guard.
 
She went to Fort Jackson, South Carolina, for boot camp and training as a Human Resources Specialist. In 2007 she served in Iraq at Camp Bucca, Umm Kasr, with the 104th Military Police Battalion. After her deployment, she worked as the Battalion Career Counselor for the 104th MP Battalion in Kingston and earned the distinction of as Soldier of the Year. In 2009, she was part of the military police security force at the Presidential Inauguration.
 
Sgt. Walker is preparing to go to Afganistan in August with other signal troops from the Yonkers Armory. She credits her work with giving her a deep sense of purpose, commitment and self-knowledge.

 

(above: (right: Francis Vandeveer Kughler (1901-1970), Pvt. Marguerite M. Chase, 1944, Women's Army Corps, Pastel drawing, 24 1/8 x 19 inches. Marguerite Chase, like a few of the other Yonkers WACs, first worked at GM Eastern Aircraft in Tarrytown. But, a year after her brothers joined the armed forces, she "just wasn't content to be safe at home working in an aircraft plant." She joined the WAC in January 1944, and became known as "a girl with a star-spangled heart." She was assigned to Douglas Army Air Field, where she inspected B25 Mitchell bombers used in training. The Herald Statesman ran an article about Chase, with a photograph of her inspecting an airplane window. Civil Rights were at a crossroads in the armed forces of World War II. Many aspects of living quarters and assignments were still segregated, yet the Army made an effort to recruit African American women and gave them many opportunities and rewards not yet offered in the civilian world.)

 

(above: (right: Francis Vandeveer Kughler (1901-1970), Lt. Joanne L. Coates, 1944, WAC Recruiter sent to Yonkers & other cities, Pastel drawing, 24 x 19 inches. World War II was the first time women were officially mobilized across all the armed forces. Joanne Coates was barely out of Bryn Mawr College when she applied to the Officer's Candidate School of the Women's Auxiliary Army Corps (WAAC), the precursor to the WAC. In July of 1943, the transition from the WAAC to the WAC meant that the women soldiers were more fully integrated as a branch of the Army and recruitment efforts intensified. Lt. Coates traveled to New Jersey and Delaware, then Yonkers, on a mission to increase WAC enlistment. She had studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and appreciated the power of art to promote her cause. When she asked the Hudson River Museum to recommend artists to design recruitment posters, she initiated a much larger project and ended up in a portrait herself. Kughler captured Coates' charisma, which must have made her a very effective advocate. She worked in Yonkers until mid 1944, swearing in nearly half of the women in these pictures.)

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