Veteran Mary Elizabeth Thompson

Mary Elizabeth Thompson

Our information about Mary Elizabeth Thompson was rather sketchy since she was in Health Care here in Sunnyside, and no long able to give her own personal account.  Her death while this sketch of her life was in progress is a reminder to all of us of the brevity of life, and the necessity not to delay in preserving our heritage.  We have looked to her brother John Thompson, another of our veterans here, and to her obituary which appeared in the July 19, 1912 issue of the Daily News Record for our information on her life.

The family and friends of Mary Elizabeth recently celebrated her birthday here, and her picture was posted showing her pointing a pistol. The picture suggests that she might well have been one of the most interesting of her family.  She was the only girl in the family, and this too might indicate a person who grew to have a strong character. Those who have known her here before her illness remember her as a friendly person with a deep interest in many facets of life.

Mary Elizabeth was born May 22, 1917 and was the eldest of the children except for a half-brother by her Dad’s first wife. On finishing high school she attended Belhaven College, a Presbyterian institution in Jackson, Mississippi, where she majored in math.  After graduation she taught physical education in Monroe, Louisiana and then math in French Camp and then  Canton,  Mississippi.

After the Pearl Harbor attack, she enlisted in the Navy and was sent to Hunter College for basic Navy training. From there she was sent to Harvard to study business in preparation for her work in the Supply Corps.  Commissioned an officer in the Navy, she traveled to seven different colleges in Louisiana and Mississippi regularly as paymaster for Navy V-12 students. The picture of her in uniform carrying a pistol was not fun and games: she carried with her large amounts of cash so it made sense for her to protect herself as well as the government money.  Her next job in the Navy was as the Disbursing Officer at the Naval Air Station in Livermore, California.

She exited the Navy shortly after the war ended but her career was just beginning.  During the last 22 years of her working life she was on the National Staff of the Girl Scouts in Memphis, Tennessee; Atlanta, Georgia; and New York City, New York. In New York she had responsibility for national meetings of the entire Girl Scout organization.

America owes women like Mary Elizabeth a debt of gratitude, not only for the very real contributions they made to the war effort, but also for being  leaders and role models for the youth of our nation.

As told to Dick Young