USMCWR 1923 – 1986
By: Michael Simonson
Lillian Anita Bamberger Simonson (Bambi) was born in New York City in 1923 and died in Fort Dodge Iowa in 1986. She was raised in lower Manhattan, New York City. She joined the United States Marine Corps Women’s Reserve in 1943.
She met her husband, LeRoy (Swede) Donald Simonson, while both were serving in the Marine Corps.
In 1945 after her honorable discharge from the Marines as a corporal, she moved to a rural farm in Northwest Iowa.
She, and her baby boy Mike who was born in 1945, lived on the farm with her husband’s parents and his seven brothers and sisters until Swede returned from the South Pacific at the conclusion of World War II. LeRoy was deployed to the South Pacific in WW II where he attained the rank of Master Technical Sergeant as part of a Torpedo Bomber Unit (VMTB131). He served on islands throughout the South Pacific until the end of the war in the Pacific.
After WW II, he returned to Iowa and enrolled at Iowa State University where he received his undergraduate and graduate degrees in Educational Leadership. He became an Iowa school teacher after college, eventually in Fort Dodge, Iowa where he served as the vocational agriculture teacher, the Audio-Visual Coordinator, and ultimately moving into educational administration until his retirement. LeRoy and Lillian (Swede and Bambi) lived in Fort Dodge where he enjoyed golfing, fishing, and spending time with friends. He was a member of St. Olaf Lutheran Church, the Lions, the America Legion, and other civic organizations. He was honorably discharged as a Master Technical Sergeant from the USMC.
In 1946, Swede and Bambi moved to Ames, Iowa where they lived in Pammel Court while Swede finished his Degree in Agricultural Engineering at Iowa State. After he graduated, they eventually moved to Fort Dodge, Iowa where LeRoy served as a teacher and school administrator. Bambi worked in a bank, a law firm and ultimately at Iowa Lutheran hospital. In 1952 her second son Don was born – Don Simonson is currently chair of the Department of Music and Theatre at Iowa State University and his wife Gaye serves as executive assistant to the Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Michael is married to Margaret Simonson. They live in Cooper City, Florida where Margaret is an elementary school library media specialist and Mike is a Professor of instructional technology and distance education at Nova Southeastern University. Michael was honorably discharged as a Captain in the USMC (R) in 1975 after service in the US, Okinawa, and Viet Nam.
Lillian Anita Bamberger Simonson is a heroine for many reasons – she raised her younger sister and older brother after her mother died when she was 12. She served honorably in the US Marine Corps from 1943-45 at a time when women almost never served in the military. She was one of the first groups of Women Marines to enlist in New York City (see newspaper clippings). After her service, she moved to rural Iowa where she raised a family. She was a valued employee with many friends. She always expected the best from her husband LeRoy, and her sons Mike and Don. She epitomizes the hard-working, self-reliant, and loving woman her friends and family loved to call Bambi and her children loved to call mom; and she never lost her New York accent, as was always proud of her service as a Marine. She taught her children all the verses of the Marine Corps hymn before they were ten.