National park shares passing of ‘Rosie’ Kay Morrison

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National park shares passing of ‘Rosie’ Kay Morrison
Rosie Kay Morrison (All photos courtesy of Rosie the Riveter Park)

By Kathy Chouteau

The Rosie the Riveter WWII Home Front National Historical Park has announced the passing of original wartime-era “Rosie,” Kay Catherine Morrison, at the age of 97.

“Wonderful, funny, witty and charming,” Morrison embodied the ‘we can do it'” spirit throughout her life, according to park representatives. “When she visited with you, she truly took an interest in you and remembered everything you told her,” they said.

Born in Chico, Morrison married her husband, Ray, while a junior in high school; after her 1941 graduation, the duo moved to the Bay Area to search for work in the war effort, said park officials. They landed in an apartment in San Francisco on Haight and Fillmore streets and Ray quickly found work as a shipwright (carpenter) in Kaiser Shipyard #2.

Also wanting to work in the shipyard, Morrison was initially discouraged by a Union hall sign that said “No Women or Blacks Wanted,” per park officials. Ever determined, she returned to the Union hall in 1943 and was hired as a welder working the graveyard shift six days a week in Kaiser Shipyard #2. Morrison commuted to work with her husband by ferry from the Ferry Building in San Francisco.

According to the park, Morrison attending welding school for two weeks. After only three months on the job, she passed the Government’s Navy Welding test and became a certified journeyman welder—her wages increasing from $0.90 an hour to $1.38 an hour (about $20 an hour in 2021 dollars). “You must be awfully good because it took me three tries before I passed it,” a male co-worker told her at the time.

Once, Morrison was fortunate to attend the launching of a ship she had worked on, which made her feel “proud and patriotic,” said the park. She continued her welding work on the Home Front until August 1945, when the war had ended.

Following the war, Morrison and her husband went on to have two children; while he worked in the laundry business, she spent three decades at Bank of America, retiring in 1984 as branch manager, said park officials. The couple was married for 64 years until Ray passed in 2004.

“Together they have six grandchildren and numerous great-grandchildren that she was so immensely proud of and how lucky for them to have had this wonderful, inspiring woman as their matriarch. Her passing will be deeply felt by them forever,” said the park.

Morrison “looked fondly on her days as a Rosie and felt privileged to have been given the opportunity to promote women and share her stories with visitors at the [park].” officials added.

More information about Morrison’s memorial service will follow at a later date; watch the park’s website and social media accounts for details. Those wanting to give tribute donations in Morrison’s honor can do so at Rosie the Riveter Trust or at Guide Dogs for the Blind, per the park.

Kay Morrison, with Betty Reid Soskin in the background, at the Rosie the Riveter Trust Dinner in 2018.