Robbinsdale resident was Navy mechanic in World War II
93-year-old served as WAVES aircraft mechanic
LaVonne Olberg has what they call a mechanic’s hand.
That’s what the 93-year-old veteran and Robbinsdale resident says she learned about her hands long ago. Hands that once set points on sparkplugs, refueled Piper Cubs, and maintained fleets of company planes for the U.S. Navy. As she displays her palm, she runs the fingers of her opposite hand across her thumb joint, the spot which, according to lore, can make or break one’s technical capabilities. “They say some hands are too narrow here for it. But mine have this arch.”
Before she discovered she had a literal touch for all things mechanical, she knew she had a strong aptitude, so she had no qualms with being assigned as an airplane mechanic when she enlisted in the Navy’s WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) program toward the end of World War II, even though it wasn’t her first choice of role.
“I had wanted to be in the recreation department, but it was always full,” she said.
Olberg was determined to enlist in spite of women joining the military being a very unpopular notion at the time.