SPARs – In Service and In Spirit

“These women were strong, independent, confident. As Captain Stratton said, ‘All we asked was for the Coast Guard just to give the women a chance.’ They gave the women a chance and they made good.” – First Lady, Michelle Obama (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Casey Ranel)

In memory of Eleanor Pavkovic Fabyan, 1925-2010

Last week’s christening of the Coast Guard’s newest National Security Cutter, Stratton, was quite a celebration for the SPARs, the first women to be admitted into the Coast Guard. It was an event to remember not just for the 23 trailblazing women who attended, but for all the World War II women veterans.

Throughout the two-day commemoration, stories unfolded about the SPARs, their service and Coast Guard history. While all of the SPARs are honored for their service and courage, Betty Lutz Reed and Eleanor Pavkovic Fabyan’s spirit and pride shined as the CGC Stratton begins her journey in the Coast Guard.

Betty Lutz Reed

Betty Lutz Reed

Traveling from La Fayette, Ind., Betty celebrated her 87th birthday while in Mississippi for the christening events. Her family and friends went all out, surprise party and all.

Betty was a sophomore at Purdue University in 1943 when she enlisted.  She was inspired to join the Coast Guard by Dorothy Stratton herself as the dean of women at Purdue. Assigned as a storekeeper, Betty was sent to the Navy Clothing Locker in New Orleans. She worked for one year selling military clothes to Navy men and women and another year working in the pay office in Lake Pontchartrain. She shared an apartment in the French Quarter with two other storekeepers where she recalled the Friday night shrimp boil parties she and her roommates were known for. At the end of the war, her unit became a Separation Center where she worked until being released from service, along with all the other SPARs, in June 1946.

Over the year’s, Betty has represented the SPARs in many local and national events. She has attended several of the Coast Guard’s pretigious events, meeting and taking pictures with the service’s most influential women including Captain Dorothy Stratton herself, Vice Adm. Vivien Crea and Vice Adm. Sally Brice-O’Hara. Now, after Friday’s christening, she can addthe First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama to this list.

“There has always been a patriotic theme through our whole family heritage,” said Susan Reed Luse, Betty’s daughter. “Going back to my great grandmother graduating Purdue in 1890, there’s been this history of trailblazing [in my family].”

Eleanor Pavkovic Fabyan

Eleanor Pavkovic Fabyan

While Eleanor was very much looking forward to attending the christening, she suddenly became very ill in the days leading up to the event and was not able to attend. Disappointed to miss the ceremony, her daughters, Cynthia Fabyan and Deb Cizek, shared her story as a reminder of her “tremendous loyalty to the SPARs and her country.”

Eleanor enlisted as a yeoman in 1945 and was stationed at Manhattan Beach. Although she spent just over a year on active duty, her devotion to the SPARs and love for the Coast Guard shined in her lifelong community service.

“My Mom instilled in our family a duty to be a citizen, a love for the flag, and she loved telling people what a SPAR was and their role in World War II,” said her daughter, Cynthia Fabyan.

A native of Detroit, Mich., Eleanor has organized the SPARs’ participation in Coast Guard City, U.S.A.’s renowned annual Coast Guard Festival in Grand Haven, Mich., since 1975. Wearing her original SPARs uniform, she proudly marched in many of the parades representing Coast Guard World War II women veterans. One year she was even honored as the Grand Marshall for the event.

Sadly, we report that the day after the Stratton’s christening, Eleanor went into a coma and passed peacefully on July 25, 2010. As this year’s 86th annual Grand Haven Coast Guard festival begins this week, it is fitting to remember Eleanor, her advocacy and all her efforts to preserve this important part of our service’s history.

Thank-you to Betty and Eleanor for your continued service to our country.  All of the SPARs pioneering spirit is respected and applauded.  The 23 Coast Guard Womens Reserve veterans who traveled from all over the nation to attend the christening events include;

PASCAGOULA, Miss. – Following the christening of the CGC Stratton on July 23, 2010, the SPARs wait to meet with the First Lady, Michelle Obama. The cutter is named for Capt. Dorothy Stratton, the first female admitted into the Coast Guard and leader of 11,000 women during World War II. Photo by Susan Luse.

  • Ms. Charlotte Bart
  • Ms. Margaret Beeler-Oliver
  • Ms. Helen Burke
  • Ms. Anastasia Cassidy
  • Ms. Barbara Chachitz
  • Ms. Beverly Funderberg
  • Ms. Lynn Goldhammer
  • Ms. Ruth Hartman
  • Mrs. Louise Hershey
  • Ms. Dorothy Kurtz
  • Ms. Clara Leinhauser-Haggarty
  • Ms. Marie Madison
  • Ms. Betty Martini
  • Ms. Catherine McSweeney
  • Ms. Dorothy Miller
  • Ms. Lucy Pugh
  • Ms. Betty Reed
  • Ms. Lillie Ruhmann
  • Ms. Dolores Schubiliske
  • Ms. Ernestine Walker-Burnham
  • Ms. Roma Weir
  • Ms. Wilmer
  • Ms. Harriet Writer

The SPARs Song

As we conclude this historical event, we’ll end with a song the SPARs sing with great pride (they even sang it during last week’s festivities….)

Sang to the “Washington and Lee Swing” tune, here is “When a Coast Guard Girl Walks Down the Street.” (reprinted from SPAR Song Book. Washington: U.S. Coast Guard, n.d. [est. 1943])

“When a Coast Guard girl walks down the street,
She looks a hundred per from head to feet.
She has a style, a smile a winning way
No matter where you go, you’ll recognize her and you’ll say,
“Now there’s a girl I’d like to know”
She has that Coast Guard spirit, pep and go.
Just to look at her is quite a treat
It’s hard to beat
A girl from the Coast Guard SPARs”

**View the archived webcast, read the christening’s brochure and see more pictures here.

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