Anna Iris Ray Meyer, a 'Rosie the Riveter,' dies

Baltimore Sun reporter

Anna Iris Ray Meyer, who joined the war effort in the 1940s by working on bomber planes as a "Rosie the Riveter," died July 14 at her daughter's home in Fallston. She was 92.

Mrs. Meyer, who was known as Iris, had a sweet, easygoing nature, said daughter Doris Jean Tobias. But Mrs. Meyer, the second of six children raised on a farm in Newdale, N.C., also knew how to care for herself and her family.

She learned to grow and can food and barter for other needs. She worked through school caring for her grandparents. And in 1942, when her friend Fay Thomas told her about good jobs at the Glenn L. Martin Aircraft Co., the pair got on a bus to Baltimore.

Mrs. Tobias said her friend told her mother that there was "cash money" to be made working on World War II bombers — better than the wages she earned at a knitting mill.

"She was Rosie the Riveter," said Mrs. Tobias, who lives in New Freedom, Pa. "She didn't actually hold the riveter. When someone was smashing rivets on the outside of the planes, she was inside holding a wood block so the plane wouldn't dent. She was small enough that they gave her the job of working in the nose cone."

She was known as one of the wiring girls for the "Martin Bombers" on the second shift at the Middle River aircraft manufacturer.

Mrs. Meyer rented an attic room in Highlandtown, but sometimes she and girlfriends would escape the heat by sleeping in Patterson Park, or at least until the police kicked them out. They would go to midnight movies and go on double dates.

She met her husband, Albert C. Meyer Jr., at Martin, and they were married in Columbus, Ohio, after he was drafted in 1945.

Albert Meyer later returned to work at Martin and she became a homemaker in their house in Essex. But Mrs. Meyer taught Mrs. Tobias and her sister Linda Gail Meyer about having a good work ethic. The girls did chores, including planting, picking and canning beans from the backyard garden, just like Mrs. Meyer did on the family farm in North Carolina.

Mrs. Tobias said the family still believes Mrs. Meyer lived so long because she ate so many beans.

Mrs. Meyer also relied on church and went every Sunday. Burnell Hiser met her at Essex United Methodist Church and their families became close friends. Mrs. Hiser said she and Mrs. Meyer were in the women's club, which fundraised and found ways to have fun.

"She was a wonderful person, truly one of the kindest people I've ever known," Mrs. Hiser said. "She was always willing to help when there was a need."

Mrs. Meyer, who came of age in the Depression era, understood need. She was careful not to waste food or other things, her daughter said. Mrs. Meyer even reused tin foil by carefully washing it and folding it.

In 1964, when the kids were older, she decided she would work again and got a job at the Maryland Department of Motor Vehicles. She stayed for 17 years. "Mom had to learn to drive and I don't think she was that happy about that," Mrs. Tobias said. "But she did it."

In 1975, Mrs. Meyer and her husband moved to Fallston and joined the Fallston United Methodist Church and continued attending Sunday services. Mrs. Meyer's husband died in 1998.

She had spent time in her daughters' homes and died at her daughter Linda Meyer's home in Fallston. The daughters felt they were paying her back for all the care she'd given family during the years.

Services will be held at noon July 18 at McComas Funeral Home, 50 W. Broadway, Bel Air, with the Rev. John Campbell officiating. Interment is planned at Bel Air Memorial Gardens in Bel Air.

In addition to her daughters, Mrs. Meyer is survived by a brother, Charles Ben Ray of Cumming, Ga.; three grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.

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