History Women

Meet Reggie, a Cryptologist During World War II

imgres-2Sometimes my work makes a lucky girl. I do strategic marketing, and we have a client — Extended Family, out of Portsmouth New Hampshire — that is launching something called Ageless Lifestyle, which is all about providing information so you can minimize the effects of age by adopting a lifestyle that allows your body to be its best self all through your seventies, eighties, and nineties. As someone who has been way too busy to chat with my body much over the past 60 years, I’ve found it to be an eye opener.

One of the things we are doing with them is setting up “Ageless Interviews.” These are interviews with people who have gone before us, one or two generations ahead, in which we learn something fabulous about their lives.

I met Reggie when we were working on this project, and she and I hit it off. I was graced by her presence. I was graced by her life, and the possibilities it suggested for my own life … and my daughter’s life, and her daughter’s life. She was a trailblazer. I just didn’t know about her.

Reggie graduated from Barnard College in 1942. Following graduation she went with two girlfriends to DC, where she worked in the Japanese Code Breaking Group. Oh, my goodness! I asked her when we first met if she had seen the message they sent us declaring war, and she said she’d seen a copy of it at the office. Of course she had, because we all have copies of things like that lying around our offices too. I couldn’t get enough of her. After the war she worked for Glamour magazine from 1946 until sometime in the early fifties. We will be posting videos of those stories as well. Reggie is in her nineties; she lives alone with the help of Extended Family, and she has so many stories to tell that I can’t wait to go back on my own and take her to lunch.

Take a look at the video of her describing her work in Washington during the war. It’s worth the three minutes. Trust me. (Yes, that’s my voice in the background asking her questions. Do I really sound like that?)

This experience made me pause for a moment. How many other stories are out there in our communities? Stories that should be told, that must be heard by us all? My grandparents were long gone before I hit my teens. My mother and father have both passed away within the last three years. My biggest regret is that I didn’t take more time to sit with them and hear their stories. If you are lucky enough to have people in your lives who have untold stories, take a moment. Make a lunch date. Ask the kinds of questions they will not answer without some prodding. Then e-mail me. I want to hear them all.


One reply on “Meet Reggie, a Cryptologist During World War II”

Fabulous Christine! I want to hear MORE about this project for so many reasons, not least of all, my love of stories. Do you recall the project that was done in Grand Central Station a few years ago, in which people could sit in a booth and tell their stories? I wonder what became of all of that? Here, on the Cape, there are so many stories. My husband teaches senior fitness and his amazement never ceases when he talks with his clients and discovers their “past” lives.

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