About Us

MEET THE VOLUNTEER:  Virginia Basler

On October 14, 3,755 “Rosies” set a new world record for people dressed as Rosie the Riveter gathered in one place—in this case, the EMU Convocation Center in Ypsilanti. The youngest was six months old, the oldest 101. Among all those 4,000 “Rosies” were 57 actual Rosies—women who worked in factories during World War II, assembling armaments. And one of those was one of our volunteers, Virginia Basler, who helped build B-24 Liberators at Willow Run.

Born in Alpena, Virginia moved to Ypsilanti in 1943, when she was 17 years old, specifically to work at Willow Run. She worked on the bomber fuselages, “making holes for Rosie,” as she puts it—holes for the rivets to fit into. On her first day, a male coworker drilled right through her thumb, but she persevered. She lived first in a Willow Run dormitory and then moved into a room in an Ypsilanti home. “If you had a house, you rented out rooms in those days,” she says.

After Willow Run, Virginia enlisted in the Coast Guard. Why that branch of the service?  She laughed: “I was reading an article in the paper about the Coast Guard and it said their boot camp was in Key West. I thought that sounded like a fun place to go!” But upon enlisting, she found there would be no palm trees and tropical temperatures for her—she was headed for Manhattan Beach in Brooklyn, New York. She decided she wanted to be a cook, so that’s what she signed up for and that’s what she became. It was what she would do for most of the rest of her working life.

Virginia came back to Ypsilanti after the war and went to work, again as a cook, at the Kaiser-Frazer Automotive Company, which, as luck would have it, was housed in the same Willow Run plant where she had worked during the war. When the company went out of business, she did some part-time jobs while raising her children, and then went to work as a cook at Ypsilanti High School and, later, at West Middle School. She retired in 1990.

Virginia has hardly slowed down at all since her “retirement.” She works three days a month at the thrift shop, delivers meals every week for Meals on Wheels, and calls bingo games at the Ypsilanti Senior Center, where she takes exercise classes. She also spends time socializing with other local Rosies, who hold regular gatherings. “I need to find something to do on Fridays,” she says. “Otherwise, I’ll be forced to clean my house!” That’s our Rosie!

 

 

 

 

About the Thrift Shop

Founded in 1942, the Thrift Shop of Ypsilanti is a resale store, selling items generously donated by people in our community. In turn, we donate all profits to local area charities.  We are a 501(c)3 charitable organization, and all donations–whether of goods or money–are tax deductible to the extent allowed by law. 
 
The shop is run entirely by volunteers.
 

We are happy to accept donations of items for resale during regular business hours.  Please see the DONATE page for more details.

 

Board of Directors

                                                            President                                 June Gordon

                                                            Vice President                         Ann Thomas

                                                            Recording Secretary               Kalyn Sterzik

                                                            Treasurer                                Nancy Good

                                                            Dispersing Treasurer              Deborah White

                                                            Corresponding Secretary        Nancy Hamilton

                                                            Scheduling                               Marlene Barr

                                                            Membership                           Jenean Carter

                                                            Social Service                          Marcia Sylvester

                                                            Housekeeping                         Priscilla Kulback

                                                            Building                                   Nancy Yapp

                                                            Donations                                Vivian Phillips

                                                            Publicity                                  Pamela Erbe

                                                            Telephone/Email                    Nina Homel

                                                            Historian                                 Margo Myers