Real-life local Rosie the Riveter celebrates 100th birthday

Rosie the Riveter is an iconic image representing the women who worked in factories and shipyards during World War II. This Memorial Day, we sat down with a local Rosie the Riveter on her 100th birthday.

Willie Massey, from Burna, Kentucky, worked on war planes in Evansville, Indiana during World War II.

“They have little holes all up and down this wing, on the outside of it,” Massey said.

She’d find the right size steel to fill the holes.

“I’d put the rivet in there and she would, I call it the bucker, that’s what they called, and then I’d shoot that in there. I learned how to do that. That was hard,” Massey said.

She did that to keep busy after her husband, Leon, was drafted. She was around 25 years old at the time.

“I’d never been away from home. It was tough,” Massey said.

 He’d gone up with her to get her settled in before he left.

“Just I wanted to help. I wanted to do something,” Massey said.

She was good enough to leave a week early from school to start working putting P-47 wings together at Servel. During her time at Servel, her boss delivered several letters from the draft —not on purpose.

“I reckon because my name is Willie, they thought I was a man. Boy, and they were going to draft. He’d tease me and laugh about it, and he said, ‘Well, I’ll take care of it’. Happened two or three different times,” Massey said.

She worked for almost four years until Leon came home.

“I’m proud of it. I am proud. Of course, it was sad, because I was gone a long time,” Massey said.

Leon and Willie moved back to Burna, and lived happily together until Leon died two years ago. Massey’s now 100, but is still vibrant and telling stories of her times as a Rosie the Riveter.

Massey says her secret to making it to 100 is walking around and staying talkative.

American Legion post 217 put a special recipe in their new member’s cookbook, "100-year-old Pound Cake" in honor of Massey’s birthday.

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