Alumni Spotlight: Jeannie Kramer (Cullingwood)
We always love it when alumni come back to visit. We like to think that once the National Home is your home, it is always your home. This week we were lucky enough to be visited by Jeannie Kramer (Cullingwood) who called the National Home her home from 1943 to 1947. After her father passed away from heart issues caused by gassing during his service in the Army in World War !, her mother was struggling to make ends meet. She worked as a switchboard operator and had four children to care for. She made the tough decision to make arrangements for her children to be cared for outside of her home in the heart of the Pennsylvania Dutch countryside.
Jeannie’s eldest brother went to live at Thadeus Stevens Industrial School (now Thadeus Stevens College of Technology). At the time it was a boys only vocational boarding school. Her two younger siblings, a brother, and a sister went to live at the Pennsylvania Soldier’s Orphans School (now closed). Jeannie, however, was too old for the age requirement at the Orphans School, so she found herself at the VFW National Home for Children. When she first got to the National Home, she said the other children didn’t really clue her into the rules of the place, and she got herself into plenty of trouble! She started off at the Virginia cottage, spent some time in New York 1 and New York 2, before finally settling in at the Ohio Cottage with Lilly Miller, her housemother.
Jeannie recalled that when the director, Charles Adams informed Ms. Miller that she would be taking on Jeannie, she said: “Now, Mr. Adams, what have I done to you to deserve that girl?!” However, she would later inform him that Jeannie was her right hand in the kitchen. Jeannie graduated from the Eaton Rapids High school, and in fact, was in town this week to participate in the 70-year high school class reunion of the class of 47. After graduating, Jeannie went back to Pennsylvania and attended Cleary College for business, and spent most of her career working in a restaurant. She and her husband were introduced by their mothers, fellow auxiliary members of Cocalico Valley Auxiliary Post #3376, in Ephrata, Pennsylvania. They have three children together. Even though her separation from her mother and siblings was painful, Jeannie is glad that the National Home was there to help and give her a place to call home when her family needed it the most. When asked what she would say to someone who might be thinking of donating or supporting the National Home, she shouted: “Do it!”