In 2017, June Fremont was the oldest marine at the Marine Corps 242 Birthday Ball, which celebrates the Marine Corps’s beginnings and its traditions. After her time serving in the Marines from 1943 to 1946, June raised her family in Minnesota and worked at 3M for 43 years in various departments. She officially retired in 2015. At 97 years old, June is living happily at Woodbury Senior Living and loves to go out with friends.
In an interview with Face Aging MN, June shared some of her most memorable moments as a Marine. Her words have been slightly edited for clarity and length.
I was born in Chicago, and I’m the oldest of three girls. I joined the Marines because it was the hardest branch of service for a woman to get into. I was 21 years old when I joined and was stationed at a boot camp called Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.
Then I was sent to Washington D.C. where I worked at the Pentagon on missing in action and killed in action citations. We had 400,000 Marines that we kept track of. Twenty-five thousand were killed in action, and 70,000 were wounded. These brave men and women who have sacrificed their lives are the reason I’m telling my story.
While at the Pentagon, I wrote letters on behalf of President Roosevelt to the spouse or family of fallen soldiers to say thank you for their service and sacrifice. I would always try to make it personal.
One time when I was stationed at the Pentagon, they needed an usher for a big rally for Lord Halifax, the British ambassador to the United States. While I was waiting in the wings, along comes Eleanor Roosevelt. She came right up to me and said, “Where are you from? Are they feeding you all right? Do you like the Marine Corps?” We had about a ten-minute conversation.
At one point, I asked her, “How do you like being first lady?”
“It’s tough,” she replied.
I have gone around for quite a while to eighth graders who are studying World War II, and I tell them about meeting Eleanor Roosevelt because as she left, she shook hands with me. “This is the hand that shook hands with Eleanor Roosevelt,” I would tell them. “I have not washed it in 72 years, so if you touch me you’ve touched Eleanor.” Don’t laugh! You would be surprised how many students come up and touch my hand.
When I was in Washington D.C., they sent a contingent of us “Marine girls” to Hawaii. Some of the boys who had been at war were on their way home, but when they got to Hawaii, they had stay to help with the growing need of military jobs. Us “Marine girls” were sent to Hawaii to replace them, so they could get home. They put me on this old, old, old IBM machine. That’s why I wear hearing aids, because it was so loud!
I met my husband while I was in North Carolina. His name is Leo, but we call him “Lee.” He was a tech staff sergeant. The day we met, there were a bunch of parachute jumpers that were going to go out the next day, so they sent a bus to our barracks — one for the Navy and one for the WAC (women’s army corps) to go to Fort Myers for a dance. He said it was love at first sight when I got off the bus. I never got to talk to any of the other boys. He monopolized me! I served in the Marines for three years. We both got out in February 1946 and married the following June. Now I have six children — two girls and four boys.
In 2017, I had the honor of being the oldest Marine at the Marine Corps 242 Birthday Ball. It’s held every year on November 10th, when the Continental Marines were first established. They honor the oldest living Marine along with the youngest one. They brought in this huge cake. It would feed at least 4,000 people. They gave me a plate with two forks, so I took a bite, then gave the cake to the youngest one. It symbolizes me passing on my wisdom to him.
All of a sudden, people started lining up, for three hours, because they wanted to take their picture with me. After a couple of hours, I had to sit down. I told them, “Either say a prayer for me or give me a quarter.” We just had fun. I loved it! I’m honored to be recognized as one of the oldest living Marines.