U.S. History students in Karen LaRosa’s class at Washington Township High School culminated a unit on Women’s History by welcoming four residents from Washington Township Senior Living for informal conversation on the changing role of women through the decades. LaRosa’s mother, Millie Chiolo, was joined by Sylvia Brugger, Bert Deininger and Joan Slimm who spent the class period engrossed in conversation with the students.
Brugger served for three years during World War II as a stateside aviation machinist, inspecting and repairing planes for the U.S. Navy. She recounted her arrival in American at 18 months following a week-long boat ride from her native Finland. While residing in Illinois, she answered an ad in the newspaper seeking women for military service, enlisted, attended boot camp in Cedar Falls, Iowa, and passed a mechanical aptitude test that took her to mechanic school in Norman, Ok., and eventually to Texas where she was responsible for everything from “propeller to rudder.” She learned that the War had ended while walking to the “chow line.”
“A loud message came over the public address system,” the 95-year-old easily recounted. ‘Now hear this! The war has now ended.’ I made it to chow, and we were hooting and hollering!”
Deininger remembered what her mother said to her when members of their family were being called into war.
“My mother said, ‘This is your country, and there will never be a country like this one’.”
LaRosa was thrilled to be able to initiate these conversations.
“It was a win-win,” she said. “My students learned first-hand what it is like to grow up in my mother’s generation, what challenges they faced and how the world has changed in their lifetimes. And our visitors were happy to share their stories.”
Pictured (001): Washington Township High School junior Sophia Altamuro listens as Sylvia Brugger recalls memories of World War II.
Pictured (002.jpg): Bert Deininger told WTHS students of her marriage at age 16 and recounted memories of family members going off to war.
Pictured (003.jpg): Washington Township High School teacher Karen LaRosa and her students posed questions of Joan Slimm (left) and LaRosa’s mother, Millie Chiolo, during a visit on Monday.