Iowa woman among the few remaining Navy WAVES
Sioux City Journal April 12, 2022
DOW CITY, Iowa. (Tribune News Service) — When Estelle J. (Busch) Leinen has her birthday on Saturday, she’ll also mark a very important milestone.
Born April 16, 1922, the Chicago native will celebrate the centennial of her birth with her family, which consists of six children, 14 grandchildren and 22 great-grandchildren.
Now living in the Crawford County town of Dow City, Leinen is one of the last remaining U.S. Navy WAVES, a group of women who served in World War II.
Graduating from high school in 1940, she enlisted in the U.S. Navy Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Services (or WAVES for short) in 1943, after being recruited by Genevieve Sullivan, sister of the five Waterloo, Iowa-born Sullivan Brothers, who were all killed in action on the light cruiser USS Juneau in 1942.
The women’s branch of the U.S. Naval Reserves WAVES was established by the U.S. Congress and signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. This law authorized the Navy to accept women into the Naval Reserve as commissioned officers and, at the enlisted level, effective for the duration of World War II, plus six months.
Although the branch was only around from July 1942 to September 1946, an estimated 87,000 WAVES served at that time.
This included Leinen, who completed U.S. Naval Training School at Hunter College, in the Bronx, N.Y., where she received the rating of a storekeeper. She subsequently completed Storekeeper Specialist Training School from the University of Indiana in Bloomington.
For her WAVES service, Leinen received her Honorable Service Lapel in Aug. 1946. She married her husband Lavern P. “Spider” Leinen, a sailor from Earling, Iowa, the very next month.
Eventually, the Leinens settled in Dow City, where they had a large family farm as well as Leinen’s Produce, which bought and sold agricultural products from farmers in four counties in Iowa.
According to Leinen’s son Vincent Leinen, she was honored by the Rev. R. Walker Nickless, the Bishop of the Diocese of Sioux City, on her 85th birthday in 2007.
Nickless even blessed his mom’s then brand-new Pontiac G6 at the time, Vincent Leinen remembered.
Between her military career, her involvement with American Legion Post #444, and work in civil causes, Leinen has been recognized by U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst and former Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad over the years.
Just as exciting, Leinen received autographed posters, clothing, and a personalized digital video birthday message from actor Taylor Kinney (“Chicago Fire”) for her 98th birthday a few years ago, her son said.
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