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It was during the 15th century in France that Joan of Arc Joan of Arc, Fr. Jeanne D'Arc (zhän därk), 1412?–31, French saint and national heroine, called the Maid of Orléans; daughter of a farmer of Domrémy on the border of Champagne and Lorraine.  came to the defense of her countrymen, and since that time thousands of women have followed in her footsteps. In the United States, the first women to be recognized as members of the military were the WACS WACS World Association of Cooks Societies
WACS World Association of Chefs' Societies
WACS White Alice Communications System
WACS Wireless Access Communication System(s)
WACS Wire and Cable Services
 (Women's Air Corp) during World War II. Close to 150,000 women enlisted in the WACS during World War II, and Santa Fe's Stella Lavadie is a proud member of that effort.

"We all did our part to ensure that everything ran smoothly during the war," said the 89-year-old. "We all made sacrifices, both military personnel and civilians, (but) we knew that we had to carry on no matter what."

As the country prepares to honor those who have given so much to ensure our country's freedom this Thursday on Veterans Day, the occasion sparks poignant memories for Lavadie, not only because she's a World War II veteran, but also because of her late husband, Sam R. Lavadie, who was killed in a hunting accident in the Jemez Mountains on Nov. 11, 1954.

"We were childhood sweethearts and had been married for just eight years, and in a matter of moments it was all gone," she said. "To this day that tragedy still feels like a dream. I'm proud to be a veteran and I know it's a day of celebration The Day of Celebration was a gathering of 45,000 Latter-Day Saint youth which took place on July 16, 2005 to commemorate the 175th anniversary of the restoration of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. , but it also triggers a certain type of sadness for me."

Lavadie believes that her experience as a veteran helped her when she was widowed with three small children at the age of 32.

As she said, "Although my children received a small amount of financial assistance from Social Security, I knew that I had to work to support my children."

Sixty-six years later, after a career doing secretarial work for Los Alamos National Laboratory Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) (previously known at various times as Site Y, Los Alamos Laboratory, and Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory) is a United States Department of Energy (DOE) national laboratory, managed and operated by Los Alamos National  and the Bureau of Land Management, Stella Lavadie is thankful for the productive lives that her children have achieved and the time that she spends with her two grandchildren. "Times were tough when I became a widow and we often ate hamburger more often than steak, but I made sure that my children received a good education and did their part in being productive people in our community," she says.

In addition to caring for her family, Lavadie has been active in the community as a lifetime member of both the V.F.W. Post 2951 and the Santa Fe Fiesta Council. For the past 46 years she has also been a member of the Catholic Daughters of America. "In 2005 I chaired the state convention for the Catholic Daughters," she said.

Stella Lavadie was born in Taos in 1921 to Abel Vigil and Antonia Graham. She was one of four children born to the couple. According to Lavadie, her great-grandmother, Vivianita Graham, was a midwife and delivered her at the family home.

Lavadie's father was a coal miner, so the family spent many years living in Rocksprings, Wyo. When Stella Lavadie was 21 she moved back to Taos and went to New Mexico Highlands University New Mexico Highlands University (NMHU) is a university located in Las Vegas, New Mexico. Dr. James A. Fries is the president.

NMHU is notable for enrolling a majority Hispanic student body.
, where she received her teaching certificate and taught at La Joya Elementary in Southern New Mexico for two years. When World War II broke out, her patriotic duty beckoned and Lavadie enlisted in the war as a WAC WAC (Women's Army Corps), U.S. army organization created (1942) during World War II to enlist women as auxiliaries for noncombatant duty in the U.S. army. Before 1943 it was known as the Women's Auxiliary Army Corps (WAAC). Its first director was Oveta Culp Hobby. .

"My father was a World War I veteran and everybody seemed to be helping out after the attack on Pearl Harbor, so I enlisted and became part of the first group of women to serve in the military," she said. "I didn't go overseas, instead I was stationed at different bases around the country where I worked in the supply headquarters and kept track of the inventory. I was a corporal when the war ended."

Lavadie was part of the first contingent of women in the military during the war; thousands of women have followed. She's also proud that her two sons are also military veterans. Earlier this year, Lavadie took part in the tribute "Women in the Military" at Kirtland Air Force Base Kirtland Air Force Base is located in the southeast quadrant of Albuquerque, New Mexico, adjacent to the Albuquerque International Sunport. The base is the third largest installation in Air Force Materiel Command, covering 51,558 acres (209 kmĀ²) and employing over 23,000 people, , in honor of the women who served during World War II. As she says, "There were 10 of us women veterans from New Mexico, including Wilma Vaught, who is a retired Brigadier General."

Ana Pacheco's weekly tribute to our community elders appears every Sunday. She can be reached at 474-2800.
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Title Annotation:Neighbors
Publication:The Santa Fe New Mexican (Santa Fe, NM)
Geographic Code:4EUFR
Date:Nov 7, 2010
Next Article:THE PAST 100 YEARS.

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