Evelyn Beckman Brown and I only met a handful of times but we became fast friends. She immediately began mailing me notes of encouragement which I kept on file (every author needs encouragement!).
The latest note arrived days before her death on December 19, 2018.
Regarding a newspaper article I wrote about her, she panned: “Your article made me feel like SOMEBODY (her emphasis) and that feeling is a gift I will treasure forever. May God bless you as you continue your good works.”
A one-min. video of Evelyn speaking about her service can be viewed at my Youtube Channel. Please subscribe and give it a thumbs up.
Her picture is also included in ‘Women of WWII Coloring Book‘.
Thanks to our vets for their service!
This is an excerpt from Evelyn’s story in my new book, Born To Be Soldiers: Those Plucky Women of World War II:
“Eight days after enlisting with the Coast Guard on her 20th birthday, Evelyn Beckman left her home in Fort Wayne, Indiana, on a train.
She was headed to boot camp with the Coast Guard Women’s Reserve at Manhattan Beach in New York.
She was now officially a SPAR – this was the Coast Guard acronym for its female members and stood for ‘Semper paratus, always ready.’
A week earlier, her mother had signed a form, stating ‘Evie’ as the young woman was called by family and friends, could volunteer to serve in the nation’s military.
At Manhattan Beach Evie learned to march, take orders, perform drills, and help in the dining hall.
She completed Yeoman School, during which she perfected skills learned in high school in shorthand and typing, and was assigned as a secretary at the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut.
Evie marveled at the beautiful campus and resolved to do her best. Though nervous at first, she quickly grew accustomed to her responsibilities, which included typing many forms and delivering orders.
As it was now May 1945 and the war was over in Europe with a German surrender, many of the forms that came across her desk were for military leaves and discharges.
Barracks for the SPARS were not established so the women used Coast Guard stipends to find housing, i.e. subsistence and quarters (S&Q). Evie shared rooms with SPARs from New Jersey, Iowa, and Brooklyn. After the war, she would keep in contact with many of these women for decades.
Dress code for SPARs included uniform dresses and blue slacks. The women were only allowed to wear pants when it was Uniform of the Day or doing KP duty. Those were the first pants Evie Beckman had ever worn.
As the SPARs were required to keep hair off of their collars, Evie wore hers short. They were also not allowed to wear jewelry.
With her meals, clothing, and housing provided, Evie had her needs met. Knowing her family, like many across the nation, was rationed with food items like sugar and meat, she sent part of her paychecks home for her family’s use.
Evie Beckman kept in touch with her family through letters, but she was not homesick. Being in the Coast Guard was more like an adventure than anything she had known.
When off-duty, Evie Beckman frequented a service center for the Coast Guard set up with snacks, music, and games. Naval and submarine bases in the area hosted social times that the women could attend.
During leaves, Evie and the SPARs toured New York City. They visited the Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty, Rockefeller Center, Radio City Music Hall, and Waldorf Astoria.
When the war ended in September 1945 with the Japanese surrender, Evie felt selfish because she knew her adventures were drawing to a close.
Evie loved military life. If given the chance to re-enlist as the men were offered, she would have done so.
The date of June 20, 1946, was set as the closing of the SPAR program. As the day approached, Evie grew sadder. She was the last SPAR at the academy when the SPAR program closed, having served 15 months and 12 days. Evie Beckman typed her own discharge papers.
Back in Fort Wayne, she found a job as a teller at Anthony Wayne Bank. She met and married Ronald Vernon Brown. They married in 1950 and became parents to four children.
Evie completed nurses training and worked for 28 years at Aiken Clinic in Fort Wayne.
In 2011 Evelyn Brown participated in Honor Flight of Northeast Indiana. For many years she participated in veteran parades and events.
“I was never a hero. As a SPAR, I did a job I was capable of doing to take the place of an able-bodied male who could fight the real battle.”