She was the woman behind the red polka-dot bandana: Her image represented a generation of women who answered the call with a world at war.
While her family knew the woman as Naomi Parker-Fraley, she later gained widespread fame as the inspiration for “Rosie the Riveter” — the iconic “We Can Do It” World War II-era poster by J. Howard Miller.
Parker-Fraley, who passed away on Jan. 20 after a lengthy battle with cancer, was memorialized in Longview’s historic Monticello Hotel Saturday afternoon.
The 96-year-old had moved to the area in February 2017 to be closer to her family in Kelso.
Despite her short time at an assisted living facility in Longview, about 150 people gathered Saturday to pay tribute to Parker-Fraley and the generation of strong American women she and her sister Ada Wyn Parker, 94, of Longview came to symbolize.
Parker-Fraley and Wyn Parker were two of the first women put to work as full-time mechanics at the U.S. Naval Air Station in Alameda, Calif., just months after the 1941 bombing of Pearl Harbor. A visiting photographer from United Press International snapped a quick photo of Parker-Fraley peering over a turret lathe, and her likeness was later captured by Howard Miller in his famous “We Can Do It!” poster.
Wyn Parker was surrounded Saturday by family who flew in from out of state.
“My grandma was kind of a big deal,” Leah Winchester said in an interview with The Daily News after the memorial.
Winchester and 12-year-old Jeremiah Dellay, Parker-Fraley’s oldest great-grandchild, flew in from St. Louis to attend Parker-Fraley’s service.
“Even in her death, she’s still going to have an impact on people’s lives,” Winchester said. “That’s just who she was.”
Winchester said wasn’t surprised to see such a strong turnout for a woman who only lived in the area for a little less than year.
“I thought that there would be a lot of people here because she touched a lot of people,” she said. “Not just because she was Rosie the Riveter, but also because of who Naomi was ... who my grandmother was as a person. She was a light, and people were drawn to her.”
Although Miller’s poster shows a woman flexing her bicep while wearing coveralls and a bandana, Parker-Fraley was a woman who was known for taking pride in her appearance.
She was rarely caught without lipstick and makeup on, according to friends. And she maintained 4-inch long nails that she occasionally used to enforce discipline, joked Joe Blankenship, 74, of Kelso. Her favorite color was pink — a color she applied to her kitchen and a rolling pin kept in one of its drawers.
“Rosie the Riveter is a thing that people followed, but we just want to move on because it’s Mom,” Blankenship said in an interview. “I don’t care if she’s famous. That wasn’t important to us, and it wasn’t important to her.”
Blankenship said he was grateful to Monticello Hotel manager Craig Dieffenbach for giving the family a free venue to host the memorial and helping with other costs.
Dieffenbach also commissioned a portrait by local painter Cheryl Hicks, which depicts Parker-Fraley gazing at the Rosie the Riveter poster as an older woman. It will hang permanently in the hotel banquet room.
A digitized version of the painting will be displayed in the Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., Dieffenbach said.
“It’s supposed to be her looking back at her life, but it could also be anyone,” said Hicks. “You look back at your own life and you want to be proud of what you’ve accomplished and think that you’ve done something to inspire other people.”