As a real-life "Rosie the Riveter" during World War II, Josephine Rachiele, 91, of West Babylon, helped assemble airplanes for the U.S. Army Air Corps at Republic Aviation in Farmingdale.
“When I first started out, it was difficult,” Rachiele said. “But I kept telling myself I had to stick it out for my family.”
On Thursday, the museum honored Rachiele and all Long Island defense industry workers in a special pre-Labor Day ceremony at that same hangar Rachiele worked at seven decades ago. Rachiele was presented with awards of recognition from the Town of Babylon and from the office of Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone.
“They’ve never really been singled out or given notoriety,” said Larry Starr, manager of the American Airpower Museum in East Farmingdale. “There is a lot of history out here on Long Island, and it all starts with the workers.”
The museum, which is housed in a former Republic Aviation hangar, on Thursday also had on display World War II airplanes built by Republic and Bethpage-based Grumman Aircraft, which is now part of Northrop Grumman.
Among those in attendance was Betty Bohlander, president of the Grumman-Northrop Grumman Retiree Club. Bohlander, 72, worked for Grumman as a secretary for 34 years.
“Growing up, I knew so many people who worked for Grumman, so many families, friends,” Bohlander said. “There’s a lot of pride and accomplishment in what our people, our workers did.”
After the ceremony, one of the last fly-ready P-47 Thunderbolt aircraft, one of the planes Rachiele worked on as a riveter, took to the skies in tribute.
“This is your legacy,” Jeff Clyman, president of the American Airpower Museum said to the crowd in his speech. “And we will honor that legacy for years to come.”