JONESPORT, Maine — Florence Manchester Smith, a Maine native and veteran, was honored by the Coast Guard Sector Northern New England at Station Jonesport in celebration of her 100th birthday.
Smith of Jonesport enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard SPARs program in December of 1943, an all-female workforce mobilized during World War II, a news release issued by the USCG Sector Northern New England on Friday said.
"SPARs, an acronym of the Coast Guard's motto -- Semper Paratus, Always Ready, served in various shore-side roles on the home front, which freed up men to fight aboard and at sea," the release explained. "SPAR Manchester was one of more than 10,000 women who volunteered for service between 1942 and 1946."
This past week, Smith was presented with a letter of appreciation, as well as a coin, from Adm. Linda Fagan, Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, according to the release.
"Without the women who came before, I would not be where I am today,” Amy Florentino, sector commander of Sector Northern New England, said in the release. “We owe them a debt of gratitude, and I am so glad that we were able to pay tribute to Ms. Smith.”
Smith was the first person from Jonesport to become a SPAR and said she was inspired because of the uniforms that women got to wear.
Her first assignment was in a Palm Beach bakery, according to the release. She later was transferred to Boston where she was a confidential clerk.
Smith only served in the military for a year, as she married a fellow member of the Coast Guard: Philmore Smith, also of Jonesport. Married women at the time could not serve in the military, the release notes.
"She received a convenience discharge along with 54 dollars, and remained connected to the Coast Guard station in Jonesport ever since," the release said.
Smith was asked what she thinks of women in the military, to which she responded, "Oh, I love it! Someone told me once that I was a pioneer. I guess I am."