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Supporting the troops, finding love

Donna Lenz Wright/The Week

Photos by Terry Mayer/The Week

(Published Nov. 8, 2007, 1:43 p.m.)

This Rosie the Riveter set out to support the troops, and found true love along the way

Rosie the Riveter, the can-do woman with the kerchiefed hair and rolled-up sleeves, is one of the most recognizable civil morale campaign icons of World War II.

She convinced 18 million American women that they "Can do it!" and they did it by filling the empty factories, mills, hospitals and offices and kept the country going while the soldiers fought the war.

But Rosie the Riveter as a love story? It isn't exactly part of her myth, but that part of the story rang true for one Delavan couple.

In 1942 Elsie Hoffman had just graduated from high school in Brainerd, Minn., a rural town in the central part of the state. It was early in the war, and she answered a Rosie the Riveter ad, accepting a free railroad pass to Seattle, Wash., and job at Boeing.

"There were no men on the trains and hundreds of women," she recalls. "It was fascinating. I was from Brainerd, so I never saw very much."

Elsie and her sister arrived in Seattle and got right to work.

"I didn't have any experience," she says. "But they gave me the rivet gun and showed me how to do it and that was it.

 "I made the wings of B-17s and B-29s."

Hoffman riveted the wings from the outside while a fellow Rosie supported from the inside.

"It wasn't hard at all. It was a fun job and I enjoyed it very much."

She worked seven days a week, eight hours a day. The wage was $1.73 an hour plus the 10 cent second-shift differential.

Jacob Hoffman met his wife, Elsie, while stationed in Seattle in WWII. Elsie was a Rosie the Riveter.

"It was nice to make some money," she said. "I saved some, bought war bonds and had fun with some too."

Some of that fun was roller-skating and lots of movies.

"It rains a lot there," she says. "We saw lots of movies.

"One Sunday we went to a movie ..."

"And I picked her up," interjects Jacob, Elsie's husband of 63 years.

"He asked me out for coffee," she corrects, flashing him a smile.

Jacob was in the Navy and stationed in Seattle. After a spring and summer courtship, Jacob got his deployment orders.

"I asked her to marry me, and she did," he said, jokingly shrugging his shoulders. "And the next morning I shipped out overseas."

"And I went back to Seattle for two years until the war was over," Elsie said.

Every day she went to work and wrote a letter to Jacob, who was somewhere in the South Pacific.

"But I didn't get them every day," he said. "I'd get bundles at a time."

When the war ended in 1945, so did the jobs. The disappointment is still audible in Elsie's voice when she remembers.

"I loved my job. But they made everybody quit and I went back to Minnesota."

After Jacob's return home they settled in Nebraska, eventually relocating to Delavan. In the meantime they raised seven children and now have 15 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

"That's quite a bit," Jacob says after Elsie lists the numbers.

They share stories of their lives together and photographs of their family and a recent anniversary party. The collection of clocks, handmade by Jacob in his retirement, chime throughout the home they made together after Rosie the Riveter played cupid in their lives.

There is a Rosie the Riveter Memorial honoring American women's labor during World War II at Rosie the Riveter World War II/Home Front National Historic Park in Richmond, Calif. Learn more at

www.rosietheriveter.org and www.rosietheriveter.net.

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Veterans Day programs

Lake Geneva

--- American Legion Post 24 will fire a "three volley" rifle salute at 11 a.m. Sunday, Nov. 11, at the intersection of Main and Broad streets in downtown Lake Geneva to commemorate the end of World War I.

--- American Legion Post 24 will hold a Veterans Day program at 9:30 a.m. Monday, Nov. 12, at Lake Geneva Middle School, 600 N. Bloomfield Road. Students will present a program recognizing veterans, and the eighth-grade class will host lunch for the veterans following the program.

Delavan

--- American Legion Post 95 will host a Veterans Day dance from 7 to 11 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 10, at the Legion Hall, 111 S. Second St., Delavan. Each of the seven U.S. Armed Forces songs will be played to honor veterans and soldiers in service. Everyone is welcome to enjoy the music of the Paul Johnson Band. The cost is $7.

--- Detachment 1061 of the Marine Corps League will host an S.O.S. breakfast from 7:30 to 10:30 a.m. Sunday, Nov. 11, in the Legion Hall, 111 S. Second St., Delavan.

--- American Legion Post 95 will hold a Veterans Day observance at 11 a.m. Sunday, Nov. 11, in front of the Legion Hall, 111 S. Second St., Delavan. Rifles will be fired and Taps will be played. A chili lunch will follow in the Legion Hall.

Fontana/Walworth

--- American Legion Post 102 will hold a Veterans Day programs at 9 a.m. Monday, Nov. 12, in the Walworth School auditorium, 121 Beloit St. The program in Walworth will include a tribute to the post's namesake, Howard Koeppen, and a presentation of his medals and a flag to his family.

Sharon

--- American Legion Post 130 will hold a Veterans Day observance and flag burning at 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 11, at Veterans Memorial Park in downtown Sharon.

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