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Sophie Sarro dies; worked as a Rosie the Riveter on WWII planes

Sophie Sarro, 103, was an original Rosie the

Sophie Sarro, 103, was an original Rosie the Riveter who helped build airplanes during WWII. Credit: Newsday / Daniel Goodrich

Sophie Sarro, who had worked as a Rosie the Riveter at Northrop Grumman in Bethpage during World War II and was responsible for assembling battery and radio boxes on fighter planes, has died at 103.

The cause of death was pneumonia, said her daughter, Rose Dalton of Miller Place. Sarro died Monday at Huntington Hospital.

“She was a loving person, and everyone loved her, and she just enjoyed life” Dalton said. “She was with her family when she died, which is what she would have wanted.”

Sarro, who grew up in Huntington, was 5 feet tall and weighed barely 100 pounds during her factory days. Her stature and ability to easily get in and out of planes made her a natural for assembly work. She was one of an army of about 6 million women who helped manufacture airplanes, ships and tanks during the war years. “I wanted to help the men in the war,” Sarro said when she was interviewed by Newsday in March. Five of those men included her brothers, all of whom returned home when the war ended.

Working on aircraft was a hard, demanding job, for which Sarro was paid 65 cents an hour, the modern-day equivalent of about $10 an hour. She worked six days a week and would also tuck short notes in the planes she worked on with words of encouragement to the servicemen.

In 2004, at age 90, Sarro was invited along with other former riveters to the American Airpower Museum at Republic Airport, where she got to fly in a World War II bomber plane. She was also interviewed for the 2007 PBS documentary, “New York War Stories,” about her experiences.

When the war ended, she began working at Republic Aviation in Farmingdale, where she met Sal Sarro, her husband of 69 years, who had served overseas in the 8th Air Force. “She looked great in slacks,” Sal told Newsday. “She always had a great shape.”

The couple, who were married in 1947, renewed their vows at St. Hugh of Lincoln Roman Catholic Church in Huntington Station in April, just five months shy of their 70th wedding anniversary. It was a double ceremony as their daughter and her husband celebrated their 40th anniversary.

During the years when she raised a family, Sarro always kept busy. She baked, made homemade pasta, gardened and also worked as a seamstress. Though she retired at 62, Sarro continued to sew garments for charity until she was 101. She made nightgowns, dresses and other garments for abused children and mothers for community centers.

In 1992, Sarro underwent surgery for colon cancer, and in 2006 was diagnosed with breast cancer and had a mastectomy and radiation treatments. She remained cancer-free.

“Without my family,” she said in March, “I wouldn’t be here.”

In addition to her husband and daughter, Sarro’s survivors also include her son, Bruce Sarro, of upstate Chatman; and her sister Rosemarie Leone Calandrillo of Huntington Station; and three grandchildren.

Services will be held at M.A. Connell Funeral Home in Huntington on Thursday from 2 to 4 and 7 to 9 p.m., and a funeral Mass will take place at St. Hugh of Lincoln at 9:30 a.m. Friday.

Burial will follow at St. Patrick’s Cemetery in Huntington.


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