WWII Marine Corps veteran celebrates 100th birthday in Ocala

WWII Marine Corps veteran Helen Bonomini celebrated her 100th birthday on Friday.

Bonomini, who turned 100 on Sunday, served in the United States Marine Corps Women’s Reserve from 1943 to 1945 and has always taken pride in her service.

Two Marine Corps veterans who came to congratulate Bonomini led the party by shouting the traditional Marine cry “oorah”.

Bonomini celebrated her 100th birthday early with a party Friday at the Brookdale Paddock Hills Assisted Living Center in southeast Ocala, surrounded by family and fellow veterans, including Navy veteran Lewis Alston in his uniform blue.

Alston, a member of the Marion County Memorial Honor Guard and Vietnam War veteran and Purple Heart recipient, congratulated Bonomini and served him a piece of cake bearing the Marine Corps seal.

“Once a Marine, always a Marine – Semper Fi,” Alston said.

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Jason White, a Marine Corps veteran of the Iraq War and director of the Florida chapter of the Birdwell Foundation for PTSD which focuses on military veterans and first responders, read a birthday message for Bonomini from the Mayor of Ocala, Kent Guinn.

The message mentioned his milestone birthday and military service.

The post also stated that Bonomini had volunteered for about 40 years at a Veterans Affairs office that offered free tax service to veterans.

“Your generosity of love towards your family, your neighbors and your country says a lot about the wonderful and kind nature that you are,” the post said.

White was accompanied by Army veteran John Pryor. The veterans presented Bonomini with a “Women’s Veteran” cap and a Marine Corps flag.

Jean Winkler of Ocklawaha, Bonomini’s niece, and her husband Mel Winkler attended the party and Candice Brown, one of Bonomini’s caregivers and unit manager at the assisted living facility, was the main organizer of the ‘event.

Brown said Bonomini “was doing better than everyone else, with little help” and when asked about the secrets of longevity she said she “eats well”.

Brown said Bonomini crocheted hats and still does some parts of the trade.

Jean Winkler said Bonomini crocheted “hundreds of hats” for interfaith emergency services in Ocala.

“She’s a gentle soul,” Brown said.

Lisa Loebertman of Kindred Hospice, who has looked after Bonomini, said that “the centennial’s stamina is good (and) she has a good smile”.

Service in the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve

Jean Winkler said Bonomini, then Helen Elizabeth Adams, was born in Centralia, Illinois, and her father was a peach farmer. The family moved to Boynton Beach when Bonomini was a child.

Jean Winkler said Bonomini was stationed in Quantico, Va., While serving in the Marines and primarily dealt with officer pay due to his math skills.

According to the University of the Marine Corps article titled “Women Marines in World War II” at www.usmcu.edu, the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve was established in July 1942.

The first class of 71 commissioned officers and a class of 722 enlisted women both reported for service in March 1943, according to the article.

“American women in military uniform were rare at the start of World War II. On July 30, 1942, the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve was created as part of the Marine Corps Reserve. The mission of the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve was to provide qualified women for service in Marine Corps establishments ashore, freeing up men for combat service, ”the article reads.

Bonomini was married to Ray Meisenheimer who died around 2000 for about 50 years. She then married Salvatore Bonmini, who died around 2012.

A copy of the “Honolulu Advertiser” newspaper for September 3, 1995 carried a photo of Bonomini (then Meisenheimer) saluting at a memorial service marking the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II in Waikiki, Hawaii.

Bonomini whispered that the birthday celebration on Friday was “good” as the veterans stood by his side.

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