102-year-old female WWII Marine

102-year-old female WWII Marine among honorees at Souderton Area High School veterans brunch

Grace Bergman
Grace Bergman, WWII Marine with bouquet presented by Souderton Area High School Interact and Support Our Troops Clubs. Bergaman is 102. Photo by Bob Keeler – Digital first Media.



FRANCONIA — With this being the third year the Interact and Support Our Troops clubs at Souderton Area High School held a get-together with local veterans for Veterans Day, there were “a lot of familiar faces,” Lindsey Pazdziorko, president of the Support Our Troops Club, said.

“But then, there’s a lot of new faces we haven’t seen before, which is really nice,” Abby Tammaro, president of the Interact Club, said.

“It seems like the word is spreading about it,” Pazdziorko said. “A lot of people are enjoying it, so we’re getting more turnout.”

This year, veterans could register for one of three brunch periods held Friday, Nov. 9 in the school library.

One of the newcomers was 102-year-old Peter Becker Community resident Grace Bergman.

Grace Bergman is the oldest living female Marine in Pennsylvania, her daughter, Peggy Bergman, who also lives at Peter Becker Community, said.

“She’s one of the four oldest female Marines in the country,” Peggy Bergman added.

Grace Bergman, who was in the Marines from 1943 to 1945 during World War II, served at Headquarters Marine Corps in Arlington, Va., the Bergmans said.

“They kept the records for the Marines,” Peggy Bergman said.

“There weren’t too many females at that time,” Grace Bergman said.

There were actually 20,000 female Marines at the time, but they were spread out around the globe, Peggy Bergman said.

Grace and her future husband, Fred, got engaged in 1941, but expecting that he would be called to serve, decided to wait until after the war was over to marry, Peggy said.

Fred, Grace’s brother and her future brother-in-law were all in the military when Grace enlisted, Peggy said.

“She thought she should do something, too, so she did, and she volunteered,” Peggy Bergman said.

Grace said she didn’t initially tell her family she had enlisted, though.

“I just told my father that I got a new job,” she said.

When he asked where it was, she said in Washington, D.C., although she didn’t yet know where she would be assigned, she said.

“He had probably never heard of a woman going in the Marine Corps,” Grace said.

Peggy said her grandparents were proud of her mother for her service in the Marines.

“I really enjoyed being in the Marine Corps,” Grace Bergman said.

“She said had it not been for the war, it would’ve been the best time of her life,” Peggy Bergman said.

Grace Bergman said her brother was a pilot and an officer in the U.S. Air Force.

“I was very proud when he got the Distinguished Flying Cross. That’s a big honor,” she said.

With Grace Bergman’s 103rd birthday coming next month, the brunch included singing happy birthday to her.

There were 40 veterans and 110 students signed up to eat at the brunch, but the total number of students involved was more than that, Kathy Perricone, a math teacher and adviser to the Interact Club, said.

“That doesn’t count all the kids that organized it,” she said.

The Interact Club, which is sponsored by the Harleysville and Souderton-Telford Rotary clubs, has 46 members, Tammaro said.

There are about 15 active members in the Support Our Troops Club, with additional persons taking part in some activities, biology teacher and club adviser Nicholas Chiarolanza said.

Other events the club is involved in include a veteran’s appreciation baseball game in the spring and a new equestrian event started last year by Jada Landis, one of the club’s officers, he said.

Chiarolanza said he has family members that are veterans.

“My father was here today,” he said. “Usually, I have a few of my uncles, too.”

The Veterans Day event is one of the major ones for their groups each year, the two club presidents said.

“The first year of Interact, this was our first big thing that we ever did,” Tammaro, a junior at the school, said. “Now it’s kind of become a tradition.”

“I think this is one of our favorites that we do every year,” Pazdziorko, a senior at the school, said, “because we get to pair up with another great club and we get to talk to so many great people.”

Reprinted from SoudertonIndependent