“Both my older brothers were already serving in the Army,”said Pearl, “I was eager to do my part.”
Pearl Drelich played many roles throughout her life — wife, mother, and educator. She is proud of her contributions in every role she played, but one of the most meaningful roles she played in her lifetime was that of an enlisted member of the United States Naval Reserve (Women’s Reserve), better known as the WAVES (for Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) during World War II.
“Both my older brothers were already serving in the Army,” said Pearl. “It was World War II, and everyone wanted to support the war effort by enlisting if they could. I was eager to do my part. FDR signed the law in 1942 that established the WAVES, and authorized the US Navy to accept women into the Naval Reserve at the enlisted level. The purpose of the law was to release men for sea duty and replace them with women in shore establishments. Although I was 20 years old when I enlisted, I still needed my parents’ permission to enlist because I was a woman. Can you imagine that?”
As a WAVE, Pearl was a Pharmacist’s Mate 3rd Class. She saw active duty 1945-1946, and was in the reserves until 1950 when she was honorably discharged. While Pearl had many service memories to share, her favorite took place many years after she had left the WAVES. “My daughter and I traveled to Normandy Beach,” said Pearl. “I chatted for a while with another Normandy visitor, and he asked about my time in the WAVES. At the end of our chat, he excused himself for a moment, and when he came back he shook my hand, and passed a coin to me. It was a Challenge coin, given by a superior officer in recognition for a duty well done. It is always exchanged in a handshake. It was only then that I realized the man I had been chatting with was a 3-Star Lt. General in the U.S. Army. That coin means the world to me.”
Now many years later, Pearl is one of the original residents of Lions Gate, having lived in our community for over 15 years. There are many Lions Gate residents that are veterans, and each year these veterans and other residents solemnly gather in Commons Hall to celebrate Veteran’s Day together. For Veteran’s Day 2021, Lions Gate is proud to have 18 veterans in residence: Millard Braunstein, Stan Buckman, Roy Cills, Melvin Cohen, Pearl Drelich, Leonard Feldman, Lionel Gold, Norman R. Goodman, Arthur Greene, Melvin Kates, Edwin Naythons, Irvin Orel, Kenneth Rosen, Lawrence Ross, William Saslow, Frank Schade, Jerry Stein, and Muriel Troy.
This year’s program specifically honored service women, and spotlighted Pearl’s service in the WAVES. “Today’s program at Lions Gate has taken me quite by surprise,” said Pearl. “While I appreciate the recognition, it was truly my honor to serve.”