Female U.S. Marine Corps Veteran Rigged Parachutes for WWII Airmen
  

Date:  February 23, 2011

Contact:  Manny P. Hermandez

                Manager,Public Information

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Standing behind U.S. Marine Corporal Eleanor S. Perna on the occasion of the recent Cornerstone SALUTES! recognition for her miliary service, our Silver Team group (left to right) Ashley Reece RN; Sharon Von Minden, Volunteer Specialist; Sherry DiSimone, Volunteer Specialist; Sam Simpson, Volunteer for Military Affairs (veteran of 33 years US Army); Zita Hodgkinson, Eleanor's daughter; and Ken Geren, Chaplain.

Eleanor Shearer Perna, a Cornerstone Hospice patient residing in Lakeland, soon to be 90 years old, joined the U.S. Marine Corps at age 22 on May 21, 1943.   She was one of six siblings who had all enlisted in various branches of military service, and she felt that there had to be a way she could help her nation.  After basic training at Camp LeJeune in North Carolina, she was deployed to Parachute Riggers School at the Navy Base in Lakehurst, New Jersey, where six years earlier the German zeppelin  Hindenburg had exploded.  After Lakehurst, Corporal Shearer served as a parachute rigger at Parris Island, SC.  She and her co-workers inspected and packed the parachutes to be used during the European and Pacific theaters of WWII.

While at Parris Island, she met U.S. Navy PFC Joseph Perna, whom she married on August 18, 1944.  They had six children:  Eugene Perna, now living in Oceanside, CA; Robert Perna of Meridian, MS; Zita Hodgkinson, caregiver for her Mom Eleanor in Lakeland, FL; Katherine Gagene of Fairfield, Maine; Joseph Perna of San Diego, CA; and John Perna of Newport Richie, FL.  Eleanor's husband worked for 32 years for the Department of Defense at the Boston Naval Shipyards.  They were married 48 years, but had to divorce when Joseph developed dementia and Eleanor had Alzheimer's disease, and they could not keep the marriage together with two devastating illnesses.

Eleanor's brother, PFC Eugene Shearer, U.S. Army, was in North Africa for the invastion of Tunisia, and was deployed to Germany where he was killed October 1, 1944 at the Battle of the Bulge, where he earned a Silver Star.  Another brother, Sergeant Ralph Shearer, U.S. Air Force, was a waist gunner on B-17 bombers with the Eighth Air Force.  He was decorated with the Air Medal plus two Stars for the Battle of Rhineland over Germany, as well as ribbons for the European and American Theaters, and a ribbon for Presidential Unit Citation.  Her brother, Sergeant Leslie Shearer served in Belgium with a U.S. Army armored division.