When Pearl Harbor was attacked on Dec. 7, 1941, Priscilla Eichorn was 22 years old and working at the Boston Naval Shipyard answering congressional correspondence. She took the job after graduating from Boston Clerical School, but by 1944 she decided to embark on a different career path altogether.
“I was getting sick of the war and I liked the look of the Marines,” Priscilla said from her room in the Lilac Neighborhood at St. John’s Home in January 2015. So she joined up, serving for two years as a general courts martial reporter at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. During her time there, Priscilla said 10 men were tried six days a week, and only two were found innocent of the charges against them.
“It looked like a nice college campus,” Priscilla said of Camp Lejeune. At age 94, she says she is the oldest living female marine in Monroe County, and very well may be.
After the war, Priscilla went back to work at the Naval Department in Boston, where she was a secretary to an officer in charge of returning and restoring all property seized by the military for wartime operations. The districts she dealt with included six New England states from Maine to Rhode Island.
“It took a lot of negotiations,” she said of the complicated process. All told, Priscilla worked for the Naval Department for 10 years.
The end of the war also reunited her with a friend from the Mattapan neighborhood where they both grew up, and the man she married in 1945. Her late husband, Edward, served in the Air Force, went to school on the GI Bill and worked his whole life as an electrician. The couple was married for 50 years and had one daughter named Susan, who lives in Brighton and visits her mother often.
The family lived briefly in Keene, NH, and Gloversville, NY, before settling in Syracuse where Priscilla lived for 50 years. Edward passed away in 1995 and Priscilla came to St. John’s four years ago. She first lived in the Green House Home in Penfield, then Chestnut Court (part of the Meadows community) and now resides in the Lilac Neighborhood. “I’m happy to be here,” she said.
Priscilla is also a grandmother and recently became a great-grandmother to Ethan Joseph, who was five months old in January 2015 and has so far visited Priscilla five times from Pittsburgh. A picture of him hangs on her bulletin board next to one of her and Edward in their military uniforms.
Before coming to St. John’s Home, Priscilla was active in the Knights of Columbus. “I joined to be social but it turned out to be a lot of work,” she said of the time and effort it took to produce large-print books. When not doing this work, “I made a lot of friends and played a lot of cards,” she said.
Thinking back to Boston, where she grew up with three sisters and one brother, Priscilla said she misses the city and her favorite restaurant, the Union Oyster House. She last visited when she was 82, driving from Syracuse and staying with one of her nieces. She enjoyed taking in the sights she once knew so well and seeing anything new.
She remembers a Boston USO where she used to go every week with friends during the war. “All kinds of people from all over the world came through,” she said. “We danced and entertained then had to rush like the dickens to catch the train home to Ashmont.”
Asked to what she attributes her long life, Priscilla said, “clean living.”
“I wasn’t much of a drinker or smoker,” she said. “I should have raised more hell.”