101-year-old Renton High School graduate Louise Delaurenti George, was surprised April 3 with a celebration in commemoration of her service in the military.
Friends and fellow residents in her senior living community gathered to celebrate her life achievements with the presenting of a certificate of recognition from the Marine Corps. Recruiting Station in Seattle. The event was organized as a surprise for George, planned by Renton High School’s librarian assistant Mary Galbraith.
The celebration opened with a beautiful monologue by Galbraith; a story of how she grew to know George personally and in response, wanted to pay homage to the admirable women.
Galbraith discovered George after her friend, Katie Dugan, contacted Vanessa Barut-del Renton High School’s main librarian to acquire high school photos of her friend. After a bit of research on George, Galbraith decided to pay her a visit.
“I missed her meeting when she visited. SO, I decided, ‘Why not visit her myself?!’ I made arrangements to do so and was absolutely delighted to spend an hour with her in her home,” shared Galbraith.
Galbraith described the 101-year-old as, “Gracious, alert, cheerful, and good hearted.” Galbraith later added, “I felt like I met a friend,” and “she doesn’t look or indeed seem like she is over seventy!”
Their friendship only blossomed from there with Galbraith dedicating her discoveries of George’s life as its own project in the RHS archives.
After the monologue, SSGT Wilfredo J. Anticona began presenting the certificate of recognition for Ms. George’s’ service, from RS Seattle, signed by the Commanding Officer R. S. Flores.
“Dedication and exemplary service March 1943- November 1945. Your service during that pivotal time in American History has left a legacy to admire, but only a few have the courage to achieve. Happy 101st birthday from your Marine Corps Family here in Washington,” read Anticona.
After speaking with George, she graciously reminisced about her life as a young RHS graduate, deciding to join the military towards the end of WWII. Louise was the first women from the Renton area to join the marines in 1943. She said she questioned her parents before leaving, wondering if she’d succeed in the endeavor. She also recalled taking a train to Washington, D.C. for her assignment, all alone, noting that she wasn’t scared.
When asked if it was lonely, having been the only women from her area joining the force, she explained that with several men leaving on assignments, women were required to fill the roles those men left empty.
“No, when I arrived at Washington D.C., there had already been women who joined from the East Coast…” noted George.
She looked back at that time in her life with fondness, adding that, “nothing but nice things happened to me.”
While recollecting her time as a secretary in the Marines where she eventually was promoted to Marine Sergeant she recalled working for 3 men that she described as being, “very kind to me.”
As we continued to chat with her, she repeatedly expressed her disbelief and gratefulness with the event.
“This is the biggest recognition I’ve ever gotten in my life…,” she said and later added “I don’t think I deserve it… I can’t believe it.”
In Galbraith’s research, history shows us that George had an extensive and impressive record as a RHS student; involved in the Torch Society, becoming president of Business and Professional Women’s club, Chairman of National Catholic Community service, followed by becoming secretary of the United Service Organization council, and piling 4 extra credits than needed for discharge, after graduation.
“I hope that this project serves as an example of the many untold stories in the RHS archives for anyone having an interest in pursuing them,” wrote Galbraith in a document from Louise’s archived folder.
Before departing, George gave present RHS students a bit of age old wisdom, encouraging students to “find all the interesting things it (school) has to offer.”