Josephine Rachiele, one of the "Homefront Sisters," worked as a...

Josephine Rachiele, one of the "Homefront Sisters," worked as a riviter during WWII at Republic Aviation making P-47 aircrafts for the war effort in Europe.

Josephine Rachiele loved when people at air shows would ask her for her autograph and to take a photograph with her — many of them had never before met a World War II “Rosie the Riveter.”

Rachielle and two of her sisters had worked at Long Island’s Republic Aviation during the war. Josephine built P-47 war planes, Theresa Hagemeyer was an executive secretary and Sarah D’Onofrio sharpened drills. The plant newsletter did a story on them at the time, dubbing them the “Homefront Sisters.”

Rachiele was a resident of the Smithtown Center for Nursing and Rehab at the time of her death on April 18 at age 96; the family says they believe she had COVID-19. Her sister Theresa, 98, also a resident at the facility, died April 20 and had tested positive, says Michelle Wojnarowski of East Islip, a great-niece of the sisters. The third sister, Sarah, died in 2000.

A early circa 1940ss portrait shows the "Homefront Sisters" Sarah D'Onofrio, Josephine...

A early circa 1940ss portrait shows the "Homefront Sisters" Sarah D'Onofrio, Josephine Rachiele and Theresa Hagemeyer, when all three worked for Republic Aviation. Josephine worked as a riviter during WWII at Republic making P-47 aircraft for the war effor in Europe. Credit: Family Photo

'I wanted to do something for my country," Rachiele told Newsday in 1998 of her decision to give up her job in a coat factory and work at Republic in 1943. "Some of the boys where I worked were drafted, and I decided I had to help." Rachiele became one of the legions of women nationwide dubbed Rosie the Riveter because it was her job to use a rivet gun to shoot rivets through holes marked on airplane parts.

Rachiele was in the 1998 Newsday history project called “Long Island: Our Story.” She’s also featured in a display at the American Airpower Museum in Farmingdale, was honored in a 2018 ceremony there and had worked as a volunteer at the museum.

Rachiele worked at Republic for more than 40 years, retiring in 1986. "We proved we could do the job as well as men — maybe better," she told Newsday. Rachiele had also served as vice president of the local P-47 Alumni Association and treasurer of the Long Island-Republic Aviation Historical Society.

Josephine Rachiele, of West Babylon, sits in front of the historical...

Josephine Rachiele, of West Babylon, sits in front of the historical marker which was unveiled on state-owned land near the Airport Plaza shopping center on Conklin Street, in East Farmingdale, Tuesday, July 21, 2015. Credit: Steve Pfost

For Rachiele, aviation became a passion. Her former West Babylon apartment was filled with models and photographs of planes, and even a salt and pepper shaker set shaped like airplanes. Her car’s license plate proclaimed ILUVP47S. 

Rachiele was divorced and did not have children; her sister Theresa also had no children and her husband preceded her in death, Wojnarowski says.

“She was very much one of a kind, very strong-minded,” Wojnarowski says of Rachiele. “We were saying that she’s flying to Heaven on a P-47.”

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