Worth Knowing: Minnesota woman served country as a Rosie the Riveter and dedicated military wife
Lenore Marcus left the bomber plant in Ypsilanti, Mich., with a few memorable stories to tell.
There was the bed bug infestation at welding school, for one. And there was that time a drill yanked out a lock of her hair.
Two titanic figures in modern U.S. history, Henry Ford and Charles Lindbergh, once walked right under the airplane she was working on. The automobile industry magnate was giving the aviator a tour of the plant, which Ford’s company had repurposed for the war effort.
Marcus, who died at the age of 96 on March 3, 2021, was one of many American women who went to work at a factory during World War II in an episode personified by the “Rosie the Riveter” character.
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“The bomber that she worked on was a B-25 bomber, and she worked on the gun turret,” son Norm Marcus, of Lafayette, La., said. “She was kind of tiny, especially as she got older. Even though ball turrets were cramped, she was small enough to get in.”
Born Lenora Mae Slagter on Nov. 19, 1924, she was the daughter of Garrit and Lillian Slagter. She and her siblings grew up on a farm in Prinsburg, Minn., in Kandiyohi County, where one of her chores was to take care of the cows.
Marcus began to go by “Lenore” instead of “Lenora” while attending Clara City High School, from which she graduated in 1942. She soon went to the plant in Ypsilanti with her sister and her cousin, together called the “Three Musketeers.”
She was taught to weld in Minneapolis by the U.S. Department of the Defense.
She married boyfriend Russell “Bud” Marcus, who enlisted with the Navy, in 1943 while he was home on leave. The couple had three sons and moved several times over the years as her husband’s career in the military dictated.
Lenore Marcus had a strong work ethic, according to her family members, and took other jobs as needed in that time. She was known for keeping a clean house wherever they lived and, according to her obituary, let Proverbs 31:10-31 — a passage on what makes a “wife of noble character” — define her role as a military spouse.
The family made friends overseas and was able to travel to other countries, including Spain, during Bud Marcus’ tours in Germany. Tim Marcus, of Sioux Falls, S.D., described it as an “elegant time” for his parents, who at one point lived in a neighborhood populated by foreign service officers. They once saw presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy pass through on a motorcade.
“I think it was a great time for mom because I can remember … them dressing up for these parties and so on, and as you would imagine would happen in an embassy complex,” he said.
After Bud Marcus retired from the military in 1968, the family moved back to Prinsburg, where he and Lenore joined Unity Christian Reform Church. The couple enjoyed visiting with friends and traveled back to Germany twice.
Lenore Marcus was preceded in death by her husband and is survived by her sons and their spouses.