As a first-generation U.S. citizen of Polish descent from a tiny town in Somerset County, Judy Smith came to the Lock Haven area to take a job supporting the war effort.
That's where she met the man she would eventually marry, and then wait for through World War II so they could make a life together.
Raymond S. Yarnell, Jr. was the man Judy came to know and love when she worked at the former Sylvania plant in Mill Hall.
Raymond S. Yarnell Jr.
She was just out of school when she and a number of other young women from the western part of the state came here for jobs.
"We saw an advertisement for defense workers, so a whole bunch of girls from my hometown came by train to this area," recalls Judy. "We were met at the station and taken to where we would stay. Then we all got jobs at Sylvania, which was a naval defense plant at the time. They made a tube of some sort that was used by the Navy."
Ray, who everybody called "Junior" because his father's name also was Ray, worked part-time at the Sylvania plant.
He and Judy began dating, but after high school, Junior was drafted into the Navy because the Second World War was underway.
It was in May of 1944, while home on a 10-day furlough - literally on the verge of being shipped out -that he and Judy decided to get married.
"There wasn't a lot of planning - it was very last-minute, but Junior was going overseas, so we decided to get married while he was home. It happened so fast, my family wasn't even able to make it here for the wedding," says Judy in a matter-of-fact voice that indicates she was certain of her action.
"We were married on May 6, 1944, and then on May 7, we took Junior to Altoona to board a train headed for Naval Station Great Lakes in Illinois. When he left from Altoona on that train, he didn't come home again until the War was over."
A Navy quartermaster, third class, Junior got on a ship to New Guinea.
Initially, Judy says, several other local men were also on board, but then they all received different assignments.
"I still have a letter that Ray 'Puffy' Merritts (another area man who after the war served as police chief in Lock Haven) sent to Junior," says Judy. "It was in July of 1944 and Puffy wrote about his ship assignment and said he was sorry the two became separated."
Junior was on board what the Navy called a Rocket Ship, the USS LCI (R) 340. LCI, or Landing Craft Infantry, were - and are- ships designed to deliver fighting troops to a beach quickly.
The LCIs in World War II had a crew of 24 to 60 sailors and carried 200 soldiers, who descended from ramps on each side of the craft.
The ship was designed to provide supporting naval gunfire and could fire as many as 600 4.5-inch rockets on one rocket run into the beach. According to the USS Landing Craft Infantry National Association, LCIs and the men who served on them "did the dirty work of bringing invasion troops right up to the fighting, providing close-in fire support with machine guns and rockets. In doing so, they suffered enormous casualties."
Although she didn't fully know what was happening at the time, Judy said she knew Junior was right in the thick of things while serving in the Pacific.
"His letters were censored a lot they wouldn't even let him say where he was. It was something else," recalls Judy. "But we both had the same map of the Philippine Islands and we had the different areas of the map numbered. So, for example, Junior would put the number 2 on his letter and then I could look at my map and know where he was without him having to come right out and put the location in the letter."
Even when she knew where her husband was fighting, Judy said it was a "tough time for everyone."
"I was living with Junior's parents on Fairview Street in Lock Haven while he was gone, and I can remember, sometimes you'd get two or three letters at a time, then you wouldn't hear anything for weeks apart. That was terrible. Junior's brother, Ken, was also in the Philippines. He was in the Navy, too, and worked on an oil tanker."
Junior's ship in fact saw heavy fighting. While participating in the assaults on Lae, Finschaven, New Britain, Hollandia, Aitape, Leyte, Samar, Bataan, Corregidor, Zamboanga, Cebu and Mindanao, his ship won seven letters of commendation and appreciation for heroic fire support and rescue work performed.
Junior made it home from the War in January 1946, and he and Judy celebrated the birth of their first child, son Craig, in November of that year.
Judy had continued working at Sylvania until she had Craig, and then went back for a short time after his birth. She and Junior went on to have four more children - daughter Lana (Muthler), and sons Bill, Dan and Jeff.
After the children started arriving, both Junior and Judy went to work at Clinton Paper Company.
"He was a really good guy," says Judy of her husband. "We worked opposite shifts at Clinton Paper, so he did it all changed the diapers, washed the closed and remodeled the house. I felt so lucky because a lot of women I knew at the time never got that kind of support from their husbands."
Junior was also involved in the local community, especially in veteran organizations. He was very active in the former championship Lock Haven drum and bugle corps, the Black Knights.
He also served as commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Bland J. Rossman Post in Lock Haven and he served as District 15 VFW commander.
In 1968, the couple's oldest son, Craig, was drafted into the Army and served in the Vietnam War.
"It was a terrible time for us when Craig went to Vietnam," says Judy. "I wrote to him every day I always wrote something. We all worried, and Junior said he had an idea of what was going on over there."
In 1972, Junior died unexpectedly at the young age of 47 of a coronary thrombosis.
At the time, he and Judy had two grandchildren. Today, that number has grown to 10 grandchildren, and there are also nine great-grandchildren.
Judy says the memories of her earlier years together with her husband and growing family are good ones.
And, having Junior's photograph on one of the Hometown Heroes banners has brought many more memories back to life.
"The banner program really surprised me," says Judy, whose daughter Lana submitted both her father and brother's photos for the program. "Along with Junior and Craig's banners, there are just so many other people I know on the banners as well. It was a neat idea - a wonderful tribute."