99-year-old Pasadena woman recognized for heroic work during WWII as a 'Rosie the Riveter'

Marc Cota-Robles Image
Monday, August 14, 2023
SoCal woman, 99, honored for heroic work as 'Rosie the Riveter'
At 99, Shirley Virginia Kelley Bellemeur of Pasadena is finally getting the recognition she deserves for her heroic work as a "Rosie the Riveter."

PASADENA, Calif. (KABC) -- "Rosie the Riveter" is perhaps the most iconic image of working women in our country. During World War II, thousands of women worked in the U.S. aircraft industry. One of them is a 99-year-old Pasadena resident, who was recognized for her contributions which were, until recently, unknown.

At 99 years old, Shirley Virginia Kelley Bellemeur is getting the recognition she definitely deserves. Long before raising three boys, she was a war hero. During WWII, she was working as an actual "Rosie the Riveter."

"I would crawl along inside the wings - and the wings are double wings," said Bellemeur.

At the young age of 20, she was able to fit inside fighter plane wings to rivet them back together. Otherwise, entirely new wings would've been required. She achieved the rank of aviation metalsmith 3rd class. But this incredible past was virtually unknown to those around her at the Pasadena Meadows Skilled Nursing Home, where she lives, until her doctor started asking questions about her life.

"The more she talked, the more my jaw dropped, the more amazed I was at the contribution she had given," said Dr. Kristen Eddy, clinical psychologist.

Bellemeur received the 2023 Congressional Leadership of the Year Award, along with a Congressional Certificate of Recognition. Both awards came from Congresswoman Judy Chu.

"She is so humble and she seems so overwhelmed by her being awarded all this, and yet she did such an important thing for our country," Chu said. "She stepped up when we needed it."

A real life "Rosie the Riveter" and we too salute her for that.

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