In World War II, a manpower shortage – caused by the United States being at war in both Europe and the Pacific Theatre – created the need to tap into a new resource for the Marines, as well as the Army and Navy.

That resource? Womanpower.

Jean, a 96-year-old resident at Oakmont Rochester, recalled what happened when she decided she wanted to serve her country.

“I joined the Marines to see the world and they sent me to Cleveland. It was recruiting duty, I was a secretary,” she said. “They had just opened up recruitment for women, so we decided to go for it.

“I expected to have some adventure, but Cleveland was fine.”

A woman’s work with the Marine Corps

Her work with the Marines was generally administrative, where new recruits were interviewed and inspected before they were accepted.

“I was one of four women who were sent to the recruiting office originally, to replace four able-bodied guys who want to go off and fight, which they did,” Jean said. “Then two weeks later, we heard two of them were killed. It was very sad.”

Although the Marines didn’t provide a chance to be anywhere near the action abroad, she did meet her first husband there. Their marriage produced a son; later, she divorced and moved back to Detroit.

Soon, her family would grow.

Meeting an old high school friend

“I met a fellow I knew in high school, he took me to the prom,” Jean said. “We got married and had three children.”

Her marriage lasted 51 years. Although she lost her husband and two of her sons, she still has 11 grandchildren – 10 of whom live in Michigan. That keeps her plenty busy.

Jean moved into Oakmont Rochester Independent on March 15, the first day it opened. She maintains her independence as she drives and is able to frequently visit her familiar stops in the Bloomfield Hills area, including Mass regularly at St. Hugo of the Hills.

Proud to be Polish

Jean is also still quite fluent in Polish, able to speak, read and write the language that was prevalent in her Detroit east-side neighborhood near Joseph Campau and Chene.

“We took Polish grammar in school (St. Hyacinth),” she said. “All my cousins are in Poland and I keep in contact. My mom and dad came from families of eight. Most of them were left behind. I’ve been there twice to visit. It was such a wonderful reunion.”

Her love of Poland was passed on to her family, including a granddaughter, who attended the University of Warsaw for a study abroad program. She later returned to work at an orphanage.

“There are such good people in Poland. It’s a very happy place,” Jean said.

She also has a piece of advice for young people.

“Just look forward,” she said. “It takes a while to get over the adversities we face, but keep plugging away. And enjoy your family as much as you can.”