In an era when most women stayed close to home, Mary Elizabeth Etter left her hometown of Palmyra, Pennsylvania, and headed for Wisconsin. She knew no one there and knew nothing about the area except what she had read about the Hillcrest School for Girls, where she had accepted a teaching position. This was just the beginning of a fascinating life.
After a tour of duty with the Navy during World War II and the Korean War, as well as several civilian jobs in the United States, Mary learned about an opportunity to teach in Japan with the Department of Defense Dependent Schools. In 1960 she took what was intended to be a year’s leave of absence from her job in Pennsylvania. Soon she realized what a good thing she’d found – a way to reconnect with the armed services while having the chance to see new places. Subsequent assignments took her to England, Germany, Libya, Spain, Okinawa, and finally to Clark AFB in the Philippines, where she stayed until her retirement at age 71.
Family and friends were real treasure to Mary. She made new friends everywhere she went and kept in touch with most of them throughout the rest of her life. At Christmastime, 7 – 8 page letters were sent to dozens of friends all over the country and around the work. But what gave her the most pride was serving the country she loved so very much.