Pioneering female veteran, 100, to headline Memorial Day in Milton, Mass.
By SUE SCHEIBLE | The Patriot Ledger, Quincy, Mass. | Published: May 21, 2019
MILTON, Mass. (Tribune News Service) — As the nation marks Memorial Day with parades and ceremonies on Monday, those who gather in Milton will hear from a speaker like no other: 100-year-old Natalie Fultz, a longtime Milton resident, elder advocate and veteran of World War II and the Korean War.
Fultz served in the WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service), a division of the U.S. Navy, during WWII. The WAVES were created to free up male personnel for sea duty.
"It was something I thought I should do," she said Monday about her WWII enlistment. Her speech will focus "on the heroism and sacrifice of the men and women who swore to defend the Constitution and made a commitment to all of us. Their efforts were securing the nation for future generations while families also manned the homefront. I want to make sure young people know of their efforts and sacrifices."
Fultz attained the rank of Yeoman 1st Class and passed all the qualifications for chief yeoman, but there was no open billet or spot. She served in Boston in the Navy's intelligence division, according to Milton Director of Veterans Services Kevin J. Cook. Fultz recalled her service at the Fargo Building in Boston as important and satisfying. She said she was given clearance to take dictation as Naval officers interviewed people "who had done things they shouldn't have done."
"It was good; I enjoyed it," she said.
"Her service was pioneering for female veterans at a time when women serving in the military was hugely controversial," Cook said. "I think it is amazing that the town is going to have a 100-year-old WWII veteran to speak on Memorial Day and the fact that she is a woman is even more amazing. How many other towns can say that? She represents a whole generation of veterans and also a very small elite number of female veterans who served back then."
Right now, 9 percent of U.S. veterans are female, which is expected to rise to 28 percent in another 10 to 15 years, Cook said.
Fultz said, "I never thought I'd live to see this day!"
She was living in Dorchester in 1942 when she answered the brand new call for women to enlist in the Navy. "I was one of the early ones," she said. She had graduated in 1935 from St. Augustine's School in South Boston, where she had excelled at shorthand, typing and office skills, and was working as a secretary for a lawyer. She said the Navy sent her and other women who signed up to additional secretarial training; she served until 1945.
On Aug. 27, 1944, when thousands of women had been accepted for volunteer emergency service, Fultz, 26, was featured on the cover of the Boston Sunday Post newspaper in her WAVE uniform as an example of "a typical U.S. Navy WAVE."
After WWII, with a taste for adventure, Fultz moved to New York City for a year and worked for a trading company. She joined the Navy Reserves and was called up in the Korean Conflict, seeing active duty status for 26 years. She moved to Milton in the 1950s and in 1956, she became executive secretary to Edwin Land, the visionary co-founder of Polaroid Corp. in Cambridge, and stayed for 25 years. After she retired at age 62 in 1980, she stepped up her volunteer work. She was a hospice volunteer for more than 15 years, worked for a support group for children who had lost a parent and has been a pen pal to Milton schoolchildren.
Cook described Fultz as "a woman who spent her entire working life at the cutting edge."
In her 80s, she earned her bachelor's degree at UMass-Boston and has been a board member of the Milton Council on Aging for more than 10 years.
The Memorial Day Observance will begin at the Town Green at 9:30 a.m. with the raising of the flag and laying of wreaths at the town's war memorial by local veterans from American Legion Post 114.
Elected state and local officials, Milton police and fire department color guards, the auxiliary fire department and Milton's scout troops will proceed to Milton Cemetery accompanied by the Milton High School marching band.
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