A country says thanks: These are heady days for a girl from Faith, N.C.
SALISBURY — Lucy Josey Anderson has been receiving a lot of attention lately, simply because she was a Navy WAVE — a cook second class — during World War II.
It makes you think this is how it should be for every veteran from every era. They deserve this kind of attention sometime in their lives, and for Anderson, 92, the time is now.
“I’ve been well-honored, and I really appreciate it,” said the native of Faith and a longtime resident of National City, Calif., which is close to San Diego.
A great photograph of Anderson adorned the front page of the San Diego Union-Tribune Monday morning. And three different cities — two in California and one in Texas where a son lives — have issued special proclamations honoring her.
To her delight, she received cards of appreciation from 105 school children.
Anderson read all of those cards and letters on the Honor Flight this past weekend from San Diego to Washington, D.C. She was one of 78 World War II veterans making that Honor Flight, whose ultimate goal, among others, is for the veterans to see the World War II Memorial on the national mall.
Anderson was visiting the memorial for the first time. It honors the 16 million men and women who served in the U.S. armed forces, the more than 400,000 who died and all who supported the war effort back home.
For the whole weekend, start to finish, the Honor Flight treated the veterans like royalty. Their flights, meals, accommodations, on-ground transportation and tour stops were paid for. They were part of motorcycle escorts through the city.
When they returned home, throngs of people were there at the San Diego airport, giving them a heroes’ welcome. Anderson was struck by all the military personnel in dress uniforms and how many civilians were clapping and waving, holding their hands out toward her and telling her thank you.
“There must have been thousands of people there, I’m telling you,” Anderson said Monday from National City. “It was really nice to see all of them. It was really great. Everyone was quite honored.”
When she had returned to the States from Hawaii after World War II was over, the reception was nothing like that, Anderson recalled.
It’s been a heady few days for a woman with a small-town North Carolina upbringing.
She grew up in a three-room house in Faith, not counting the outhouse. Her mother, Lilly Josey, raised five sons and a daughter on her own. Lucy, the only girl, was 5 years old when her father left the family.
To make ends meet, the kids helped uncles and other farmers pick cotton, shuck corn, shell peanuts and butcher hogs. Lucy had her first real job at 16 when she took care of two children belonging to the supervisor of a cotton mill in China Grove.
Later, she became a cook for the YMCA in Spencer, which also served as the overnight quarters for railroaders. That led to a similar job at a railroaders’ hotel in Lynchburg, Va.
By January of 1944, Anderson signed on with the Navy WAVES.
“Everybody was being patriotic,” she said.
The WAVES were the women’s branch of the U.S. Naval Reserve during World War II, and the acronym stood for Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service.
The WAVES sent Anderson to the Bronx in New York for eight weeks of training before she reported to the Naval base in Norfolk, Va., where she worked in the canteen. Her next destination was Hawaii, where she was one of 1,400 women.
Hardly any guys were to be seen in Oahu, Anderson says, because they were all fighting in the Pacific. In Hawaii, the Navy WAVES were everything — “butchers, bakers and ice cream makers,” Anderson said.
They drove trucks to the banana and pineapple fields for fruits needed to feed everyone. Anderson remembers a Thanksgiving Day when she had to roast 104 turkeys all by herself to feed those 1,400 girls.
Anderson was on a beach when World War II ended, and she joined everyone else who threw their caps in the air in celebration. After the war Lucy decided to stick with the WAVES, and the Navy transferred her to its training center in San Diego.
There, she worked for the Chiefs Club and also was in charge of the women’s dining room, meaning she was responsible for feeding 250 girls. For recreation, Anderson played a lot of basketball at nights, and she was on a team that was San Diego champions three years in a row.
Most of her Navy friends called Lucy “Jo” or “Josey” back then, referring to her maiden name. “Josey” received a Navy commendation once after she caught a nighttime prowler in the women’s barracks.
She was sleeping on a top bunk when she heard the man rustling around. “I woke up, jumped out of bed and grabbed hold of him,” Anderson said. Another WAVE assisted her in holding the man until guards came in.
The break-in cost the sailor three weeks in the brig. Lucy was called into the captain’s office the next day, and she first thought she might be in trouble until the captain said, “Josey, I heard you got a man last night.”
“I knew he was joking with me then,” Anderson said.
Lucy actually did get her man at the Naval Training Center in San Diego, where she first met Frank Crawford Anderson, a warrant officer, pay clerk and the man placed in charge of five kitchens on the base.
Lucy still laughs today, thinking she worked for Frank 13 months before they ever went on a date. She said she was too busy playing basketball to be interested in men.
Frank had been wounded during the Dec. 7, 1941, Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and had lost part of a leg.
Lucy and Frank were still dating when she asked for a transfer to the East Coast so she could be closer to family in North Carolina. She was sent to a Navy base in Jacksonville, Fla., and on July 20, 1952, she and Frank were wed at a Baptist church in Concord.
Lucy left the WAVES in August 1952, ending eight-and-a-half years of service. She was awarded five different medals during her tenure.
She stayed for awhile with the Lefler family in Granite Quarry before returning to San Diego, where Frank was continuing what would be his 30-year career in the Navy.
They built a home in National City that will be 60 years old this September. The couple raised two boys (Larry and Charles) and a girl (Kathy). Frank died of cancer 26 years ago, and Lucy never remarried.
One of her sons is a fire department arson inspector for the city of Euless, Texas, and that led to a Euless proclamation recognizing Lucy’s service with the WAVES. The other city proclamations in her honor have come from San Diego and National City.
Lucy Anderson still has many cousins in Rowan County, and she tries to visit about once a year. Back in National City, she serves as a deacon at the First Baptist Church. She sometimes cooks breakfast for needy children in her community, and she visits shut-in members of the church.
“I keep quite busy,” Anderson said.
Her daughter, Kathy, said her mother also has worked tirelessly for the Cancer Society and her neighborhood watch council.
Lucy was one of only two women veterans on the weekend Honor Flight. She said a favorite stop in Washington was a visit to the Women in Military Service for America Memorial, which is located at the ceremonial entrance to Arlington National Cemetery.
The memorial honors military women past, present and future of all eras and of all service branches. It includes a registry, a computerized database with names, photos and information of women who have served.
Lucy Josey Anderson of Faith, N.C., is in that registry. She’s royalty.
Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263, or firstname.lastname@example.org.