Eileen Haydock Merullo has lived a life of service: in the military, in the schools, and in the community.
When asked why she had entered the Army immediately after graduation from Boston University, Eileen said that she was very anxious to serve her country. She had watched 15 young men in her immediate neighborhood go off to war (some of whom had paid the ultimate sacrifice), and she wanted to contribute to the war effort.
Eileen enlisted in the Women’s Army Corps in 1944 and served as a registered physical therapist at Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington, DC, and at the Amputee Rehabilitation Center in Chevy Chase, MD, until her discharge in July of 1946. Her decorations included the American Campaign Medal, the Women’s Army Corps Service Medal, Good Conduct Medal, and the World War II Victory Medal.
Immediately after her discharge, Eileen volunteered during the polio epidemic at the Infantile Paralysis Foundation in Peoria, Illinois. She spent the next four years (1947–1951) at the Naval Hospital in Chelsea, MA, as the physical therapist in charge of the rehabilitation department. In that capacity, she invented a “pronation and supernation” piece of equipment. She won an award, but did not apply for a patent; instead, she gave ownership to the Naval Hospital, and left employment to marry and raise her family.
In the sixties, there was a shortage of science teachers, a field in which Eileen was certified. Since service was her raison d’etre, in 1969 she began a 25-year career in the Revere Public Schools as a teacher of middle school science, where she was an inspiration and mentor to her students and colleagues alike. After her retirement from full-time teaching in 1994, she became a volunteer in the schools as a member of Generations, Incorporated, a program which matches retirees as tutors to children who need one-on-one contact with an adult to enhance both their academic and social skills.
Eileen’s most significant service to women veterans has come in the form of a memorial to World War II servicewomen, which has been erected on the lawn of the City of Revere’s American Legion building; this monument stands proudly among the other memorials to veterans of all our wars – from the Indian Wars to Iraq/Afghanistan. It was her vision, her hard work, her perseverance, that took the project from idea to actualization.
There is no official listing in any of our archives of the women who had enlisted in World War II from Revere, and privacy concerns prevented governmental disclosure. Another difficulty was that these women had lived much of their lives with their husbands’ surnames. In January of 2013, Eileen set about her search for honorees by putting articles in the two local newspapers about her vision and her quest for names; she continued the campaign through cable-access TV. She also made presentations at the meetings of local social groups.
Of course there was no money for this project. She sent out hand-written appeals for both names and money to national, state, and local officials, to retired teachers and nurses, and to neighbors and friends. Each response received a hand-written notes of thanks. In all, she discovered the names of 154 women, and raised over $10,000.
The foundation for the monument was poured on the American Legion lawn on August 7; the monument itself was placed on September 2. The official dedication occurred on September 7, 2013. In only nine months, Eileen had surmounted all obstacles to move her vision to fruition.
Speakers and attendees at the dedication ceremony expressed a similar observation: how wonderful to see these brave women finally honored, and how astounding that just one woman had made it happen. The ceremony itself, attended by 300 people, would have made these unsung veterans proud. Paying tribute to their memory were veterans and school children, a Medal of Honor awardee (Tom Kelly), the Speaker of the MA House of Representatives, another Representative and a Senator, the mayor of Revere and the veterans agent. Major General (retired) Dee Williams, the president of the Army Women’s Foundation in Fort Lee, VA, who gave the keynote address, stated that this is the only such memorial in the entire country.
One woman with a vision, one woman with perseverance, one proud veteran of World War II led the way, and citizens of Revere and Massachusetts for generations to come will know of the sacrifices made by their mothers, sisters, aunts, and grandmothers so that we can live free.
Long may we honor their memory!