Metro Detroit ‘Rosie’ was ‘glad to support the country’
Decades after working at the Willow Run plant near Ypsilanti that produced B-24 bombers during World War II, Sarah Blanche Mahrle was asked more than once to share her experiences as a “Rosie the Riveter.”
Those occasions allowed the Metro Detroiter to reflect more on how she and other women helped the nation in wartime.
“She was thankful to have a job, but more importantly she was very glad to support the country and to get the young men home to end the war,” said her daughter, Mary McGrath.
Mrs. Mahrle of Canton Township died Monday, Aug. 28, 2017, after recent health issues. She was 93.
In her 20s, the Midwest native joined wartime female laborers at Willow Run, where the first woman who came to be known as a “riveter” — Rose Will Monroe — also worked.
During her nearly two years at the facility once known as America’s Arsenal of Democracy, Mrs. Mahrle had a job with the secretarial staff. Her mother and sister also had jobs there at a time when such roles were unusual, McGrath said. “She was excited that women could wear pants and go to work.”
In later years, recognition for the women’s contributions to the war efforts grew and Mrs. Mahrle spoke to various groups and appeared in parades.
“She was proud of her years at the bomber plant,” said Dale Mahrle, a nephew.
And in March 2016, the retiree was among about 30 women granted an Honor Flight to Washington, D.C. As part of the trip, Mrs. Mahrle told coordinators: “I remember when the Hollywood stars would come to the plant selling war bonds. It was a big deal. I remember how BIG the assembly plant was with thousands working there!! I also lived in Willow Village built pretty close to the plant that the Fords had built in order to house the workers.”
Though Mrs. Mahrle appreciated the acknowledgment, she didn’t consider the work unusual.
“My mother is a humble person,” McGrath recalled. “She said, ‘I was just doing what I was supposed to to help the war effort.’ ”
Born Sarah Caldwell on Oct. 12, 1923, she grew up in rural Illinois and moved to Michigan after high school to attend the Detroit Business Institute, relatives said.
While working at Willow Run, she met Clarence Robert Mahrle. They wed in 1944.
Both eventually spent more than 20 years at Ford Motor Co., their daughter said.
After retiring, they divided their time between Florida and Michigan.
Mrs. Mahrle loved baking strawberry rhubarb pies and other treats. “She was a great cook,” McGrath said.
Other hobbies included sewing, crafting and crossword puzzles. She also attended church, socialized and watched the Detroit Tigers.
Until recently, she still drove and lived independently, her nephew said. “She was very mentally alert right until the end and knew what was going on around her. She was the matriarch of the Mahrle family.”
Other survivors include four grandchildren; eight great-grandchildren; and a sister, Pearl Stearns. She was predeceased by her husband and a son, Robert Paul.
Services are 11 a.m. Friday at Christ Our Savior Lutheran Church, 14175 Farmington Road, Livonia. Interment is at the city’s Glen Eden Memorial Park.
Memorials may be made to Cedar Crest Lutheran Church, 485 Farnsworth, White Lake, MI 48386.