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HARRISON – As stated in the main story about the 2019 Snowball Dinner Dance, Maye Tessner-Rood has been a driving force behind the Snowballs’ success for the past four years. In 2017, she conducted the “$100 from 100 Rosies Campaign” which itself brought in $10,500 for the Veterans Freedom Park Statue Fund. The can-do spirit of Rosie the Riveter has been an integral part of the event ever since.
Tessner-Rood headed up a bus trip in 2017 which enabled local residents to participate in a successful Guinness World Record attempt which resulted in a gathering of 3,755 blue clad, polka dot-bandanaed Rosies at the Eastern Michigan University Events Center in Ypsilanti. Participating in that event were some original Rosies who had worked in the nearby Willow Run Bomber Plant which during World War II was turning out one bomber every hour, 24 hours a day. By the time it ceased production, it had produced 8,685 B-24 Liberators.
A Westinghouse Electric ad campaign used the image of 20-year-old Naomi Parker Fraley, who was one of the first women to enter the Alameda Air Station in Alameda, Calif. A photo of her taken in 1942 as she worked a vertical lathe became the basis of the “We Can Do It” poster image created by J. Howard Miller. That is the graphic image which has come to be identified as “Rosie the Riveter.”
Tessner-Rood has stayed in touch with Parker Fraley’s family since 2017, even after that original Rosie passed away Jan. 20, 2018, one week after that year’s Snowball. Despite not receiving recognition until recent years of her unique role in the World War II home front defense effort, Naomi Parker Fraley’s sense of patriotism and moral compass did not waiver. It is that spirit which Tessner-Rood has sought tirelessly to engender among the local community. As she had said in a previous Cleaver interview:
“Her job wasn’t only to be the pretty girl on the poster to inspire. She lived it, and she truly did try to inspire across America.”
Parker Fraley had signed several of the Westinghouse “We Can Do It” posters and had advised her stepson to disperse them where he thought they would be best used. Unfortunately, the recent fires in California claimed the stepson’s home. The family did have time to take many of their belongings, but after moving into a new residence, a second fire swept through that area as well. The posters had been placed into a safe, and when the safe was opened after the fire, the posters were found intact. The family then donated one of those posters to this year’s Snowball. Needless to say, that poster was possibly the highest bid item for the evening, claimed for $375.
This is where the story takes a turn.
City of Harrison office staff came up with a special idea of how to honor Tessner-Rood for her dedication to the Veterans Freedom Park and the greater Harrison/Hayes community, and set on the Rosie theme as a way to “do it up right.” They put the word out and began some successful fundraising of their own.
During the Snowball, Tessner-Rood was brought out to the dance floor to join Mayor Stacy Stocking, City Manager and Clerk Tracey Connelly, Treasurer Sharon Hawkins and Utilities Clerk Tracy Wheeler-Clay. Stocking explained the project a bit, while the four held up a long, draped object, that turned out to be the backrest portion of a city bench with images of the Westinghouse “We Can Do It” Rosie on the left end, and Maye Tessner-Rood striking a similar pose on the right end.
“My girls in the city office came up with this idea about a month ago,” Stocking said. “And Tracy Wheeler-Clay and Sharon Hawkins went on a quest to raise some money. We did business with Jeff Hoskey from Hoggers and Larry Sheldon and my DPW workers to create a memorial bench honoring Maye, which will be placed at M-61 and Broad Street.”
The remaining $700 that was raised was awarded to Tessner-Rood to be donated in her name to the Veterans Freedom Park Statue Fund.
And as the park bench back was revealed, an obviously deeply touched Tessner-Rood could not hold back her tears. When she was again able to speak, she told the crowd that the work she has done for the statue project has been a labor of love for her, and spoke of her own son who is currently serving abroad in the military.
“The support of our community for our veterans is phenomenal,” she said. “And the support of the community to our community is… There’s no community that can beat it, I don’t care where you’re from.”
And as the saying goes: But wait, there’s more.
The bidding was indeed heavy for the signed Rosie poster, and when bidding was over there was much speculation about it. It wasn’t very long before it was made known that the poster had been purchased by a consortium of four: Lorraine Redmond, Gene Payne, Stacy Stocking and Veto Giannola. The four were bidding individually, and then decided to pool their cash, with the intent of gifting it to the one person in the building who could quite possibly be the most sincere Rosie fan/appreciator in the country – Maye Tessner-Rood.
So, what goes around does indeed come around. In this instance it refers to the open, embracing and patriotic can-do American spirit espoused and lived by one beloved member of this humble community. A woman who truly “Can Do It Again, With the Rosie Spirit.”