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One of the few, grandma of many

Woman serves in the Marines during World War II, eventually has 8 grandchildren, 11 great grandkids

Posted: January 9, 2012 1:30 a.m.
Updated: January 9, 2012 1:30 a.m.

Bobby Stone holds a model the Vought F4U Corsair, one of the airplanes she serviced with parts as a U.S. Marine during World War II.

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At 90 years old, Bobby Stone has a lot of memories. Pictures of family — many generations’ worth — line the walls of her modest Saugus home.

Among the photos are drawings and models of World War II fighter planes, reminding Stone of a time when she was one of the few female Marines serving her country.

It was 1942, and Stone was 20 years old, working as a dispatcher for a railroad company in Casper, Wyo. As she walked her 10-mile rounds one day, Stone was inspired by a “Be a Marine” billboard featuring a woman in uniform.

“I thought, ‘Ooh, I have to do that.’ My dad fought as a Marine in World War I,” Stone recalled. “It wasn’t like today’s wars. World War II was not a conflict. Once the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, it was on our territory. Everyone had a whole different feeling about it then.”

Stone talked to her boss before enlisting. She wanted to make sure she had a viable skill to offer, not just be a “grub.” He offered to teach her Teletype, which Stone learned on the job and expanded upon by moving to Los Angeles and working briefly for Western Union.

Testing well, Stone was accepted to the Marines. She was more than ready for her boot camp assignment in North Carolina.

“I liked it. I was the only girl there who did, I think. It was great to do things I’d never done before,” Stone said. “I loved music and keeping time to it, so marching three to four times a day was fun to me.”

What didn’t agree with Stone was the cold, damp air, which was especially chilly during the morning drills. She coughed enough to keep the rest of the barracks up at night, which caused her sergeant to send her to the sick bay.

This nearly derailed her budding military aspirations.

“They were going to discharge me, but I begged and pleaded. The doctor told me I could go under one condition: That I checked in at the military hospital on base when I arrived,” she said. “I asked if it was a request or an order. It was a strongly advised request.”

Still, Stone didn’t comply.

“I wanted to work,” she said.

At Camp Elliott, located on an island off the coast of San Diego, Stone was assigned to the aviation detachment storeroom, a repair base where shot-up airplanes would come in from all over the world.

“I knew every part. I was around people who enjoyed and liked their work. I was learning about stuff I never knew before,” Stone said proudly. “I wanted to go overseas, but back then, women Marines weren’t allowed to do that.”

After a year, Stone’s mystery illness (most likely asthma) re-appeared, and she was discharged. She went to back to working for the railroads, this time in Iowa.

In 1944, Stone met and married a merchant marine named Weldon Kellough. Then her priorities changed.

“The first order of business was to get pregnant, which happened the first time Weldon was in port,” she said.

Stone gave birth to three children, two boys and a girl, and became a homemaker. Kellough was released from the merchant marines in 1946.

“He wanted to be with his family,” she said.

Kellough went into construction, and the family followed him as he worked across country.

“We lived everywhere,” Stone said.

In 1967, Kellough was offered a job at the Castaic Dam, bringing the family to Southern California. They moved to Saugus, where Stone has remained ever since.

Prior to the relocation, in 1964, Stone suffered another mystery illness, this one infinitely more serious. She had been changing after a Halloween party when she felt a terrible pain in the back of her head.

When she lied down to bed, things got worse, affecting her spine.

“It was like taking a piece of fine china and throwing it on a concrete floor and watching it shatter,” Stone said. “It was like I had no vertebrae left.”

She was paralyzed from the armpits down, able to move only her arms and head. The eventual diagnosis was a massive spinal hemorrhage, the result of an artery and vein that had fused together, then exploded.

It took nine months for Stone to walk again. She was 41.

“For some reason, all I could think of was ‘let God do it.’ He knew I wanted to walk again. It was whatever God wanted,” she said. “I think it happened because God knew me, that I always wanted to be in control of things. This kept me grateful.”

That faith also led Stone to help others, whether it was at her church or as a volunteer for the Laubach Literacy Council, where she taught English to immigrants for more than 20 years.

“I’ve always been aware of people and their problems,” she said. “People that don’t understand the language, and can’t speak it, feel left out.”

Stone became a widow in 1974. She mourned, but kept moving forward, volunteering at the Santa Clarita Valley Senior Center as a dance teacher. That’s where she met second husband, James Stone, 16 years her junior.

“Jim had two left feet. I started helping him, and we’d go out dancing together. We just hung out for a long time before we started dating,” she said.

Stone found they had a lot in common.

“Jim fought in the Air Force during the Korean War,” she said. “He likes airplanes, too.”

The couple married in 1991.

Today, Stone isn’t able to volunteer much in the traditional sense, but has unofficially added to her growing clan of eight grandchildren and 11 great grandchildren.

“Two doors up, a neighbor lost her mother right after she gave birth to a child. I offered to be her baby’s grandma,” Stone said with a smile. “I’m like an honorary grandma to a whole bunch of people.”


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