Women’s Army Corp members march with new recruits.

Women’s Army Corp members march with new recruits. ()

(Tribune News Service) — Gladys Waters, 100, lives at the Waltonwood assisted living center in Royal Oak, but she is ready to step out and be the grand marshal for the city’s Memorial Day Parade this month.

Waters lived with her siblings and parents in Highland Park when she joined the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) during World War II.

She is in fairly good health nowadays, aside from some hearing trouble, and sometimes communicates with help from her daughter Ruth Gauci, or her two other children, Chris Waters of Royal Oak, and Beth Dempsey.

Gladys Waters “is so excited about being in the parade,” Gauci said. “She wants to get a new outfit and she’s very proud of having been in the service.”

The family has an antique Ford Model-T car and Waters will ride in it during the parade on May 27, driven either by Gauci’s husband or brother, Chris.

With six grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren, Waters will take part in the parade with a large retinue of relatives walking behind her.

Waters had two older brothers who were serving in the military during WWII. She had graduated from high school and attended junior college. When she decided to sign up for the military she was working as a secretary for Mills Bakery.

Waters was the youngest child in her family, which also had a farm in Howell where they later settled.

“She was about 20 years old when she joined (the WAC) and she wanted to do her part,” Gauci said. “She was very proud of being in the service, and being able to serve her country.”

Waters served from the U.S. Army base at Fort Wayne in Detroit.

The Women’s Army Corp was established during WWII and WACs served in a variety of non-combat jobs.

Waters became a driver of army trucks that were driven and delivered to cities and ports along the U.S. Eastern Seaboard to be shipped overseas.

“She drove large trucks with other women in convoys to points where they were going to be shipped,” Gauci said.

After serving four years in the WAC, Waters married her childhood sweetheart, Clyde Waters, a merchant mariner. Later, she shared some of her wartime experiences with their children.

“Once, going to the East Coast, the weather was foggy and the convoy ahead of them went (off the road) over the side of a mountain,” Gauci said.

Waters and the other women in her convoy pulled into a small town, asking if they could stay in the jail there overnight until the fog cleared. But they were told the jail was too dirty and denied any access.

“So, they drove through the fog over the mountain and got over safely,” Gauci said.

The Royal Oak Memorial Day Parade is organized by the city’s Veterans Events Committee (VEC).

Judy Davids, the city’s community engagement specialist, serves on the VEC, which learned about Waters from a local veterans group. She and two other VEC members — Cynthia Hergenroether and Frank Roche — visited Waters after talking to her family.

After meeting Waters, the VEC unanimously agreed she should be the grand marshal of this year’s parade.

“She’s delightful. She’s the first female grand marshal we’ve ever had and the first woman veteran,” Davids said. “She’s small in stature, but has a big personality and is excited to be in the parade. We’re really looking forward to it.”

Gauci remembers that her mother’s sense of service stayed with her years after her time in the Women’s Army Corp.

“After all of us kids grew up and moved out she was a Red Cross volunteer,” Gauci said. “She was always active.”

Waters will celebrate her 101st birthday in August.

(c)2024 Daily Tribune, Royal Oak, Mich.

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