Obituary of Ethel Palma
Ethel Marie LeBlanc Palma, age 99, joined her husband El and her God on August 13, 2018. Born shortly after the end of World War I, she was the oldest of eight children of the family of Lawrence E. and Rita Kern LeBlanc of DeQuincy, Louisiana. Ethel's life was measured not in years but in the number of people whose lives she touched. She was the devoted and loving mother of four children, nine grandchildren, and 14 great grandchildren. Ethel was predeceased by Elwood Joseph (El) Palma, her husband of nearly 60 years, her parents, one brother (Lawrence LeBlanc Jr.) and two sisters (Thelma Pinder and Rita Joyce Aucoin). She is survived by her children Ronald Bruce Palma (Fay Schlosser Palma), Kenneth Lee Palma (Joan Patricia Palma), Linda Kay Skowronsky (Ken Skowronsky), and Sandra Jean Mertz (Carl Mertz), as well as by her siblings Mercedes Ann Pierson, Marian Theresa Kimball, James Raymond LeBlanc, and Mary Agnes "Putsy" Sliman.
Ethel was born and raised in a Cajun French family in the Mississippi bayou country of south central Louisiana. During her lifetime of nearly a century, she witnessed many world-changing events. As a member of the "Greatest Generation," she experienced the Great Depression and a world war and the administrations of eighteen U.S. presidents, as well as some of the greatest cultural and societal transformations in American history. When she was born on May 2, 1919, commercial radio and the airplane were new inventions, the automobile was in its infancy, and television was unknown.
After attending business college in Houston and serving as bookkeeper in a family business, Ethel put aside her dreams of becoming a fashion designer to join the Woman's Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) and then the Women's Army Corps (WAC) in 1942. She served as an Army recruiter in the northeastern U.S. and as a mail censor at Port Moresby, New Guinea, and at Manila, Philippines, in the South Pacific, immediately following the Japanese destruction of that city in 1945. Although life was difficult for women serving in the armed forces, she earned the rank of first lieutenant. During the War, she met her future husband Elwood, an Army captain from New Jersey, bringing about the union of a Southern belle and a Yankee. She was proud of the fact that her wedding dress was made from parachute nylon, which had saved the life of an American pilot shot down over New Guinea. El later served as a major in the Army reserves and Ethel became the first female post commander of VFW Post 7467 in Hendersonville, North Carolina, where they lived in retirement. It was an enduring family question whether or not Lt. Palma saluted Capt. Palma, who outranked her, while both were still commissioned.
Throughout her life, Ethel was a devoted mother, raising her children as a homemaker following her military service. As a person of faith, she spent her life serving the Roman Catholic Church, becoming especially active in the congregations of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Bernardsville, New Jersey, and in that of the Immaculate Conception Parish in Hendersonville, where she distributed Holy Communion to the sick and homebound, as well as participating in the Henderson County Jail Ministry. In addition to being a longtime church choir member, Ethel also served as president of the Catholic Women's Guild, was chairwoman of the parish's Community Life Commission, and served on the board of Ministry Seven, representing her church. In retirement, she dedicated much of her time at the local Pardee Hospital, where she was Secretary-treasurer of the Pardee Chaplaincy Association and served in the Women's Auxiliary for 15 years. Ethel resided with her family for many years in Bernardsville and Basking Ridge, New Jersey, and she spent her retirement years in Hendersonville, North Carolina, and Williamsport, Pennsylvania, spending her final years in Hackettstown, New Jersey.
Ethel loved and respected her parents and was a loving sister for over 85 years; she served as a volunteer in her civic and church communities and helped pave the way for the acceptance of women in the Armed Forces; she maintained her commitment to her faith; she loved her husband and respected the vows of marriage; she raised four children with a mother's love and affection; and she was proud of her grandchildren and great grandchildren
A family memorial service with military honors will be held for Ethel on September 14, 2018 at 10:00 AM in the Library at the Somerset Hills Cemetery in Basking Ridge, NJ.
In lieu of flowers donations may be made in Ethel's name to the Employee Appreciation Fund at Heath Village, 430 Schooley's Mountain Road, Hackettstown, NJ 07840
Funeral arrangements have been entrusted to the Scala Memorial Home 124 High Street, Hackettstown, NJ 07840.To send an online condolence please visit www.scalamemorialhome.com
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