Last Memorial Day, Eileen Merullo had the special task of reading from the list of Revere’s war dead.
As she read off a portion of the names of the Revere boys killed during World War II, she remembered those young men on the list and recalled several fond memories of days long gone.
But as she read, one thing struck her as odd; there were no women remembered in any part of the ceremony.
And she was quite certain there were women veterans of World War II. That’s because she is one of them.
“I wondered if my sister, Lois Haydock, or my cousin, Elinor Dillon, or the other 141 Revere women veterans – who also served during World War II – would ever be remembered for their service,” said Merullo. “That’s how the thought of a Revere Women Veterans of World War II Memorial began. I did the research and worked with a lot of people to get it approved, and now we have to raise the money.”
Merullo said she graduated from Boston University and immediately joined the Army Medical Corps.
“I was assigned to Walter Reed in Washington, D.C. and worked in the amputation department as a physical therapist,” she said. “I was there about three years. When I came out as a civilian, I continued working at the Chelsea Naval Hospital.”
Following her service, Merullo – like many male veterans – eased into a career, notching 25 years as a teacher in the Revere School System.
As those many men and women settled into life after the war, numerous monuments went up immediately for the men who died in combat. However, the large role of women in non-combat roles pretty much went into the dustbins of history.
“There is absolutely nothing in the City of Revere for women and I do not think there is anything in the Commonwealth or the nation – except the big memorial in Washington, D.C.,” said Merullo. “During that time it was such a horrible thing – with Pearl Harbor – all the young men, 15 in my neighborhood alone, went to war. It was the thing to do if you could, no question. The women were needed in these service roles because we were running out of men and they need the women to do a lot of the work of men.”
One of Merullo’s earliest helpers and supporters was veterans advocate Morris Morris, who was a World War II veteran himself – having served during the end of the war.
“They’re not remembered because they weren’t in active combat, but they were doing very important things,” he said. “They flew the planes over to the pilots. Even when I was in the service, the women were getting no credit. When honors were given out, they were only given to men. Women were ignored. I didn’t even think about that until Eileen brought it up. When you speak about World War II, the women just aren’t thought about.”
So, the fact remained for Merullo that, despite the active and known efforts of women during World War II, time had kind of erased the memory of those efforts. It was simply put that some 141 Revere women veterans of the war were virtually unknown and would probably remain unknown if something wasn’t done. The matter became all the more immediate due to the fact that many of those women veterans had already passed away.
Right now, only a few are left (one survivor is Marie Cowhig).
Merullo said she decided that if she didn’t act immediately, these women would never be formally remembered.
She engaged in daunting research to learn every name, finding all 141 of them. Then she presented the idea of putting those names on a memorial in the American Legion Lawn – and it was well received by Veterans Agent Nick Bua and Mayor Dan Rizzo.
Once the funding is secured, the memorial will be placed on the Lawn near the flagpole.
“It’s a great undertaking by Mrs. Merullo,” said Bua. “I’ve been working with her for a few months collecting the names of the women veterans. Now, the hard work is to find the funds for the memorial. It will be difficult, but I’m sure we will be successful.”
Now, Merullo is hopeful that on a Memorial Day in the near future, the names of those women who served during World War II – though not killed in action – will be prominently displayed so that their sacrifice during wartime will not be forgotten.
“When I show the list of names we compiled to people, most of them don’t know anything about it,” said Merullo.
Perhaps now they will.
For those wishing to donate, checks can be made out to Revere’s Women Veterans WWII Memorial. An account is on file at People’s United Bank on Broadway, under Revere’s Women WWII Memorial.