Kelso family remembers real-life Rosie the Riveter

Joe Blankenship holds up the iconic picture of Rosie the Riveter, which was inspired by his mother Naomi Parker Fraley. Fraley's mother-in-law Marine Blankenship holds up a picture of Fraley that was taken during World War II. (Photo: Catherine Van/KATU News)

She inspired one of America's memorable images of a woman at work.

Rosie the Riveter became a cultural icon during World War II, but her family knows her as Naomi Parker Fraley. She passed away at age 96 from cancer on Jan. 20 in Longview, Washington.

Before the world knew her as Rosie the Riveter, Joe Blankenship knew her as Mom.

“It's my mom. I'm proud anyway. The thing is, I grew up with this woman, so she was special to me because of who she was,” said Blankenship.

Being a single mother and the sole breadwinner for her family in the 1950s was not easy. Fraley fought for everything she had until the end.

“She never looked down on anybody. She always said, you know what, you're better than nobody and nobody is better than you. That's the way she raised me,” said Blankenship.

Fraley’s independence was instilled in her when she was young. Fraley and her sister, Aida Wyn, got jobs as factory workers at Alameda Naval Air Station in California during World War II. Wyn was 18 and Fraley was just 20 years old at the time.

“A photographer happened to be going through and taking pictures and he glommed on to her,” said her daughter-in-law Marnie Blankenship.

He took a picture of her at the lathe, originally used to deglamorize women in the war, and show them what to properly wear in the workforce.

It wasn't until 2009 when Fraley saw the photo publicized at a convention that she realized she was Rosie the Riveter.

“I'm thankful that she got the notoriety that she deserves. The funny thing is she was a humble person and she didn't care,” said Joe Blankenship.

To Fraley, there were many Rosies, all chipping into the war effort.

For her family, she wasn't just an icon -- she embodied one.

“Whatever the world threw at her, she'd just bounced back,” said Blankenship. “She did it and she always did it on her own. She was an amazing person.”

The family is planning a public memorial for Fraley in Longview on March 10.

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