David Lauderdale

Rosie the Riveter story illustrates how some things have changed and some things haven't

Richard Boccabella of Hilton Head Island remembers well the days of "Rosie the Riveter."

He was moved by Sunday's column on Dr. Joseph T. Hickey's late mother, Rosina Bonavita Hickey, who helped build Avenger torpedo bombers in Tarrytown, N.Y., during World War II. She spent most of her 73 years known as the real Rosie the Riveter.

"Since I'm a 75-year-old person born in 1936, I always remembered the posters of Rosie and the reason she and other women went to the factories to support the war effort," Boccabella wrote.

"We purchased war bonds, went to the basement, pulled the blinds, turned off lights when the air raid sirens went off. We had ration stamps for meat, sugar, butter, milk, gasoline and other things."

He sent his note from an iPhone, another sharp contrast to the days of Rosie the Riveter.

"All we had then was a radio," Boccabella said. "I remember President Roosevelt's 'day of infamy' speech when (Congress) declared war on Japan. I remember it was on a Silvertone radio from Sears. My son has the radio now, which has tubes in it and it still plays."

Boccabella was reared in Ohio, across the river from Wheeling, W.Va. Like Rosie Hickey, his family was a tight-knit group of recent Italian immigrants.

"My mother, I remember when I was very young, would take in railroad bums who were looking for a meal," Boccabella said. "She would sit him down to the kitchen table and feed him breakfast. I would later ask my mother, Who was this person? Her answer was he was one of God's children looking for something to eat and not to be afraid or worry. My mother always taught us giving was more important then receiving.

"Oh, how things have changed."

Boccabella moved to Hilton Head in 1983 with his wife, Marlene, his sweetheart since she was 13 and he was 14. They purchased their dream lot here, and Marlene has since passed away. He was amazed that the real Rosie the Riveter spent her last days on the island.

"As you know, that generation worked very hard," he said. "My wife and I also took in my 93-year-old father from Florida. We had to place him at the Preston Health Center since he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. He did not know us. We would go there every day to feed him his lunch and dinner and get him ready for bed. My wife was a nurse. People would say, 'Why do you come every day to feed him; he doesn't know you.' We would respond that we know who he is."

Boccabella closed with a little old-fashioned advice.

"Would you do this for my wife and me?" he asked. "Each and every day, give your wife a hug and kiss and tell her you LOVE her."

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