AFRH-W Resident Highlight – Muriel Kupersmith
By Christine Baldwin, Librarian
Muriel Kupersmith was born in Brooklyn, New York. Her first memories are of sitting on her father’s lap while he played songs on his mandolin. As a teenager, she had the job of air raid warden turning street lights off at dawn if a siren went off. This was done with a special key and she never remembers being afraid of walking around the city in the early morning. Later in life, she wanted to join the U.S. Marines because both her fiancé and future brother-in-law were Marines, but she was too young. So when she turned 20 Muriel went to enlist, but she was underweight, only 89 pounds! She was told to eat bananas and drink milkshakes, but her mother had a better idea. Taking a cup full of pennies, tying them in a handkerchief and wearing them discreetly, Muriel now at “98” pounds was able to enlist! The physical aspect of boot camp at Camp Lejeune was not difficult for her. Muriel didn’t mind the hot weather and was good at all the obstacle courses. However, when it came to performing indoor duties like making the bed, she did not do well. And when she had mess duty, the pot Muriel had to clean was bigger than her! After boot camp, Muriel was stationed at the all-female Henderson Hall in Arlington, Virginia. One of the women she met was a future actress named Bea Arthur. It was very strict at Henderson Hall and if any male was coming in, an announcement would be made on the intercom. Muriel’s job was to notify the family of deceased Marines. She had to go through their personal effects and pull out anything that would upset the family. One day, she got word that her fiancé, Bud, had been wounded at Okinawa and would be coming home. A few days later, Muriel was told to go and see the Colonel. Everyone was quiet around her as she walked to the office. Rather than hearing the good news about Bud, she was told that he had been killed on the hospital ship. Greatly saddened, Muriel was granted leave to go home. But after a few days, she was back to work for, what she felt, was a very good cause. A short time later she would also hear that her brother-in-law was killed at Iwo Jima.
One benefit that Muriel and her friends had was the ability to use free hops on planes to go to various places. Once they went to Florida for a weekend. Muriel ended up getting sunburned and on the way back home the plane experienced turbulent weather. It was so bad everyone had to wear the very heavy life preservers. After a rough landing and a visit from the ambulance staff to make sure everyone was alright, Muriel and friends were able to make it back to the barracks with a half hour to spare. On inspection the next day, she was asked by the Lieutenant where she got the sunburn and Muriel said “at the St. George’s hotel pool in Brooklyn.” At that point, Muriel swore off taking the hops…until the following weekend, when she got a chance to go to Chicago. Even though they had no money, the girls, wearing their Marine Corps uniforms, got to ride the L train to Wrigley Field and see a Cubs game all for free.
After the war, Muriel was getting ready to get discharged. She was given money to buy civilian clothes and found a great unknown store called “Copycat.” Some of the other women asked her where she got her outfits and Muriel said “Copycat.” “No, no,” one replied “We don’t want to copycat your outfits, just tell us where you got them.” “Copycat” Muriel replied. “Really we won’t buy the same outfits!” another exclaimed. Muriel laughed and explained about the name of the store. Now a civilian, and a few years later, the Marines wanted her back. But she was married now and not eligible to return to duty. Muriel worked in a bank in Brooklyn and she and her husband raised a son and a daughter. She likes to tell the story of her son’s birth. While waking up after the very difficult delivery of over five days, Muriel heard the Marine Corps song being played. Is it any wonder that her son became a Marine who would serve for 26 years? He was also the one who discovered that Muriel was eligible to come to AFRH-W eight years ago. Muriel has four grandchildren and eight great grandchildren and we are thankful that she is a part of the Home.