Bertha "Buddie" Curnutte
Buddie Curnutte, a Rosie the Riveter, will be 89 on June 21, 2013, the first day of summer.
Buddie Curnutte is outstanding because she is one of an estimated 6 million women who worked on the home
front during World War II, AND she has survived with well-functioning mind and body, AND she lives a life of
caring, AND she has shown consistent commitment to helping our nonprofit organization develop model
Rosie the Riveter Project.
It is a pleasure to briefly summarize her life and her contributions to help us assure that Rosies are respected
and that they help shape how their legacy is passed validly and meaningfully to the future.
First, her name is Bertha, but as a child, Big Bertha was a huge dump truck. So, she’s Buddie, which is, indeed,
She grew up poor in Appalachian New York during the depression. She and her brother were raised by their father
who was not around. In adolescence her aunt took her to clean, then her uncle had her watch an empty building
which she still worries may have been, “something illegal.” While working at a “5 and dime store” friends, Fran
and Betty, found an ad for defense plant work in Chektowaga, NY. She says, “Curtis Wright riveter training was
four weeks, unpaid, with no guaranteed job for poor performers. She describes how women worked in pairs on
the Kitty Hawk airplanes, one a riveter and one a bucker, and says she can still drill today. She worked on one part
of the wing assembly. “It was hard, and you worried – lives were in your hands.”
After two years riveting, she joined the Coast Guard, to travel the west and the world. Her unit trained at
Sheepshead’s Bay, NY in hard winter, without uniforms or proper shoes. She became a medic, and at a
Philadelphia hospital, she met Earl Curnutte who had lost a leg and injured a foot at Okanawa. He was
released after the war. They wrote but never heard each other’s voices.
On July 3, 1946, at 11:00 p.m., he climbed three flights of stairs of a Catholic hospital, entered the nurses’
station, and said, “I’ve come to marry Buddie.” They drove nonstop to Charleston, WV, found a minister from
the phonebook who, on their arrival, was a mortician who married them at the funeral home.
They adopted two children, one premature. Earl worked in rehabilitation. In 2006, he died of cancer that
migrated from his amputation, to his lungs, then his brain. She’s another woman who knows more facts
(from her husband) of “the war” than history books tell.
In 2010, we interviewed Buddie (see documentary film). Buddie is an example that Rosies are precious
illustrations of largely-ignored women critical to a phenomenal human effort. In 2011, she joined our Board
of Directors. Soon after, Nancy Sneed-Sample, another Rosie board member, died, leaving Buddie as the daily
link to help us find, interview, include and educate with (not just about) Rosies.
We believe our work is a model for America. We know that Buddie is a model for people.