By Sterling McGinn

You’ve probably seen the famous Rosie the Riveter illustration – a colorful portrait of a woman wearing a bandana and flexing her arm. Newberry has its own WWII Rosie the Riveter, and her name is actually Rose.

Rose (Drum) Fretz, a World War II Rosie the Riveter, is turning 100 years this month and she has had an interesting life with many great stories to share.

Born in Melvindale, Michigan, Fretz has lived in the Newberry area for more than 30 years. She was married to the late Raymond Fretz and has two sons: Randy and Roger. Randy was a teacher at Tahquamenon Area Schools for many years, and Roger worked in the printing industry.

She now lives at Newberry Assisted Living Community and was recently honored by the American Rosie the Riveter Association with a Congressional Medal for her service during WWII.

Fretz was a senior at Southwestern High School in Detroit when Pearl Harbor was attacked. She was at home when news of the attack came over the radio. The boys at her school talked about being drafted or enlisting, and most of them finished high school before enlisting.

Fretz worked after school at Buhl Stamping, which manufactured milk cans. She typed bills of lading—legal documents that are both a receipt and a contract between the shipper and hauler.

Her sister, Irene, was hired at Stinson Aircraft in Wayne, Mich., and told Rose to apply. The 19-year-old Fretz was hired in November of 1942 and had about a week of training for riveting and drilling before she started. She remained working at the plant until the war ended.

“I liked working at Stinson Aircraft—there was a conveyor belt, and they had a fuselage assembly—it was all pipes welded together and I put the side stingers on the plane,” she said. “I riveted them and secured them.”

The planes moved along an assembly line, and she recalls having to work fast before the electricians (also women) installed the wiring.

Fretz worked the 2:30-10:30 p.m. shift, though there were times they worked until 2 a.m.

Her sister ran the final assembly, where the planes’ engines were installed.

Fretz slipped notes in the window frames for the boys flying the planes. Fretz and her sister also wrote for the in-house newsletter, Fuselage Facts.

Fretz worked on the Stinson L-5 plane, the only liaison aircraft used by the U.S. military in WWII. It was nicknamed the “Flying Jeep” because it was used for so many tasks.

“There was one version of the plane that had room for a stretcher if there was a guy that needed to get to a hospital right away, they could fly him out,” said Randy Fretz. “But mostly they were used for observation. Before the war, the Stinson was known as the Cadillac of private airplanes, and they got the contract to build these.”

Approximately 8,000 Stinson airplanes were manufactured. About 300 of them are still in use.

Fretz’s friend, Margaret “Cookie” Cook, was the test pilot who flew every plane as it came off the line.

After work, Fretz attended business college to further her education and took secretarial work and dictation.

Raymond worked in purchasing for Ford Motor Company and Rose became an elementary school secretary.

One of Rose’s fond memories is a time when she and her friend skipped school—with their mothers’ permission—to see a movie in downtown Detroit. They’d heard about a guy who sang while the reels were being changed; he was supposed to be pretty good.

“He was a skinny runt,” she said.

His name was Frank Sinatra.

Fretz also became a pinup girl after her friend sent her photo to the Detroit Times. She appeared in a bathing suit in the newspaper.

Fretz and her husband Raymond lived on the same street in Detroit, but at the time, they didn’t know each other. They later started dating and were eventually married.

Raymond, Rose and their two sons began coming to the Curtis area each summer during the time the Mackinac Bridge was being constructed, visiting Birch Shores Resort near Curtis. The first couple of trips were taken on the ferry until the completion of the bridge. Rose’s sons kept bugging their parents to move to the U.P., and they did after they retired.

Her 100th birthday will be celebrated with family later this month.