Wilma Strom Gregory
April 21, 1918 – Dec. 14, 2019
Wilma Strom Gregory, 101 year old World War II veteran, mother of five children, grandmother of six, and great-grandmother of 15, took her final journey, passing on to the next world on Dec. 14, 2019 following a stroke. She was at home surrounded with love from her family and friends.
Wilma was born on April 21, 1918 in Minnesota, the youngest of five, and the only girl with brothers five to 10 years older than her, so she learned to hold her own against their teasing as she grew up. She learned to drive at 12, graduated from high school in three years, and soon moved to Minneapolis, working different jobs from housekeeping to a Montgomery Ward store. Music was a big part of her life and she learned to play a button accordion and Hawaiian steel guitar, often sharing that music in gatherings of friends.
When the U.S. entered World War II, Wilma moved to Omaha, Nebraska to aircraft school, learning to read blueprints and rivet metal. She drove to California to work, then returned to Omaha’s Aircraft Modification Center. She joined the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) studying nursing and health, finished the course and was sent to California to work in a hospital there. WWII ended and she was released from the Army. After a job or two in Minneapolis, as well as earning her pilot’s license, she returned home to help on the farm. A brother had moved to Anchorage, Alaska, and his family was joining him there a bit reluctantly. Wilma decided she would go. In Anchorage she worked for the CAA (later FAA) where she met her future husband, and they were married four months later.
Art Gregory had a homestead just outside of Anchorage where they lived for 11 years, welcoming two daughters and two sons before moving to Homer, where their third son was born. They raised strawberries and potatoes to sell, also raising a huge vegetable garden, chickens, rabbits, and calves for meat along with a cow for milk, with their boys adding horses to the farm in later years. They started a custodial business cleaning various places including the Homer High School, South Peninsula Hospital and Homer Electric Association. After 16 years in Homer they moved first to Courtney, British Columbia, then to upstate New York where they had a maple syrup operation.
Soon Art and their youngest son, Burt, started talking about moving again. Wilma said that if she was going to move again she was going back to Alaska. The draw of grandkids surely had a hand in that desire. They lived in Juneau about four years, then moved back to Homer where they built a small cozy one bedroom home on East End Road.
Wilma’s life was full as well as challenging, which most women of her time did not experience. Learning to fly, moving all the way to Alaska, homesteading, moving numerous times, raising five children, then living on her own for 25 years after Art passed away until finally deciding to move in with her daughter, Gayle, one year ago.
After investigating the Baha’i Faith just after getting married, Wilma declared her belief in Baha’u’llah and was a firm, unwavering believer all the rest of her life. She was an unassuming, hard-working, yet quiet woman. Her family often recalls instances in later years when she would sit in her chair crocheting with a hint of a smile on her face as life went on around her, never even hinting that she knew a better way of doing things, or of a secret about to happen. She was able to continue reading and crocheting until the end of her life here on earth.
She was loving and accepting of her whole family, and her legacy will live on through them. Loved by all these many years, she will be sorely missed on this earthly plane but lovingly welcomed by those who passed on to the next world before her. She was buried near Art in the Hickerson Memorial Cemetery outside Homer. A Celebration of life/memorial service and potluck will be held at 6 p.m. Friday, Jan. 3, 2020 at the Elks Club in Homer. All who knew or were touched by her are welcome.
Wilma was preceded in death by her son, Steve, and her husband, Art.
She is survived by her daughters, Janice (Jerry) Taylor of Juneau; Gayle (Craig) Forrest of Homer; sons, Jim (DJ) Gregory of Sterling, and Burt (Patty) Gregory of Anchor Point; grandchildren, Janel Taylor and Greg Taylor both of Juneau, Gwen Reider and Dan Forrest both of Washington, Dianna Gregory of New Mexico, and Jim Gregory of Colorado; as well as great-grandchildren Garret, Rigdon, Trygve, Shawn, Dylan, Emily, Erin, William, Anne, Isaac, Arthur, Ashley, Brandon, Jimmy and Aurora.
Your memories of Wilma would be welcomed by the family and can be mailed to Janice Taylor at 8937 Trio St., Juneau AK 99801, or Gayle Forrest at PO Box 15261, Fritz Creek, AK 99603. They will be shared with all of the family.