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'Rosie the Riveter' Margaret Spalluzzi, 100, of Kingston, honored at Hingham Shipyard

HINGHAM – After the presentations and speeches were over, a stranger came forward as family members and friends crowded around a smiling Margaret Spalluzzi, seated under a tent at the Hingham Shipyard on her 100th birthday Tuesday.

"You don't know me, but I appreciate what you did," said 51-year-old Beverly Peyton, bending down to be heard. Then she was gone. 

State lawmakers, Hingham Select Board members and local developers celebrated both Spalluzzi's landmark birthday and the role she played as a wartime female shipyard welder – a "Rosie the Riveter" – nearly 80 years ago at the historic site during World War II. 

Peyton said later that she and her husband, Steve, both served in the Navy and moved to the shipyard because of its naval connections. She is now an employee of Boston Harbor Cruises, she said, and was excited to be able to go to the special event.

Shortly after 11 a.m., Spalluzzi and her family arrived in a white limousine with a police escort. Escorted into the tent by Hingham veterans, she waved and smiled at friends and sat with her daughter, grandchildren and great-grandchildren beside her.

"This is the most amazing day of my life," she said afterward.

Former Hingham Selectman Paul Healey, acting as moderator, reflected on the honor of "having someone who worked here at the shipyard celebrate their 100th birthday here."

The work done at the shipyard was, he said, critical to the success of the war effort. He described some of the details: the Bethlehem Hingham Shipyard produced 227 ships in 3½ years; 70 were destroyer escorts, which by 1943 had helped to stem the tide of advancing Germans. 

About 2,500 women worked at the Hingham Shipyard during that time.

When Healey commented that the ships proved seaworthy, Spalluzzi said, "They didn't sink." 

In his remarks, state Sen. Patrick O'Connor referred to "the hands that built America, that really saved the world" and expressed  "a heart-felt thank you." He told Spalluzzi her name was being read into the record of the Massachusetts Senate on Tuesday, and presented her with a citation honoring her "outstanding dedication and service" during World War II.

State Rep. Kathleen LaNatra, of Plymouth, a personal friend and supporter through the Kingston Council on Aging, noted Spalluzzi's reluctance to be in the limelight. Spalluzzi has been very active in the council and a director of the Friends group.

State Rep. Joan Meschino, of Hull, described the lasting inspirational power of the nation's Rosie the Riveters.

"The women of your generation really were cut from a different cloth. They had true grit," she said. "In that moment when they asked, you stepped forward and you were fearless and you were fabulous. You are the ideal, the embodiment that we all should step forward in our own service to emulate your wonderful life."

Leslie Cohen, principal and COO of Samuels & Associates, the company that owns and developed the shipyard, referred to the rich history of the property. 

"You and your riveting sisters were some of the early inspirations for us generation of working women," Cohen said. She presented Spalluzzi with a framed photograph of one of the destroyer escorts built in Hingham.

The Hingham veterans presented Spalluzzi with a bouquet to be taken out to sea in memory of all those who were lost during the war.

The program gave a brief history of Spalluzzi's service from 1942 to 1945: After her husband Antone enlisted in the Navy,  she and several of her friends responded to an ad in the newspaper. The Hingham Shipyard, which was put together in six months, needed workers. Six women, including Spalluzzi and her friends, were hired. They trained in Quincy to become welders at the Hingham yard. 

In a YouTube interview by the Boston National Historic Park, Spalluzzi has described wearing steel-toed work boots and flannel pajamas under her work clothes to stay warm. Her shift was from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily, and she often worked overtime and sometimes 7 days a week.

She told the park service that she was proud of being a welder contributing to the war effort and loved the work. She considered it a blessing when her husband and her brothers all returned from the war.

Peg Ryan, of Plymouth, who suggested the event to honor her good friend, sat in the front row. Ryan praised Scott Baresel and others at Samuels & Associates for jumping in to plan the many details "like watching a flower blossom." She was thrilled to see Spalluzzi receive the recognition she deserved and looking so happy.

After the taps bugle call sounded at the program's end, Spalluzzi quietly gave a thumbs-up.

Spalluzzi lives in Kingston in the house built by her late husband, who died at age 93 in 2011. 

Four generations of her family were at Tuesday's event. Her immediate family includes her daughter Annette Madio and her husband, Bruce, of Hingham; grandchildren Michael, Jackie and her husband, Daryl, and Jason and his wife, Robin; and great-grandchildren Braden, Noah and Ethan.


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