Title: Private, Women’s Army Corps, World War II
Birthdate: November 20, 1906
Death Date: December 24, 1958
Plot Location: Section 148, Lot 154

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Joshua Bennett’s only career was in carpentry, specifically in repairs. After marrying Alice Carver in 1905, three children were born, of which Eleanor was the oldest. Her brother Clarence arrived in 1908 and another, Allen, lived less than a week in 1911.

They lived in a rental on 51st Street just north of Market Street in West Philadelphia. Joshua bought a house on nearby Lindenwood Street so the children were still within walking distance of West Philadelphia High School. 

Eleanor married Bill Britton in 1926, a year after her graduation. He was a store manager and she was a bank clerk. When the Great Depression arrived in 1929 it hit some people harder than others, and it may have thrown Joshua into a personal depression. He took his life in 1931 with a single gunshot to the chest. Alice buried him at Mount Moriah beside their son Allen.

Not long afterward, Eleanor moved back to her mother’s house after a divorce from Bill Britton. The 1940 census lists her mother as a part-time public school teacher and Eleanor as a bookkeeper at a bank. She looked after her mother the rest of her life.

Then the entire world seemed to be at war for a second time. History showed that in the previous war the U.S. Navy benefited from having women in its ranks “to release more men for sea duty.” A female member of Congress introduced legislation that passed in 1942 creating the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC). They were trained as clerks, drivers, and switchboard operators, among others, and eventually as mechanics and other technical positions.

Despite certain obstacles and resistance issues, it was a huge success, becoming the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) in 1943. Rather than merely serving alongside it, the women were now part of the Army itself with full rank and benefits.

Eleanor became one of the 150,000 women who volunteered during the war. She joined in January of 1944, although her specific duties were not recorded. She was even among a minority of WACs who served overseas, leaving in March 1945 and returning to be discharged in mid-November.

A man ten years younger than her named Edgar Pilcher soon caught her eye. He was a California native, divorced, and had a brief enlistment before receiving a medical discharge. He worked in the composing room of the Times Journal newspaper in Vineland, New Jersey. Eleanor married him in 1947, brought her mother with her, and they settled into the town once known for grape vineyards (and Dr. Thomas Welch, who created his formula for grape juice when he lived there in 1869). 

The Pilchers were active members of First Methodist Church where they both sang in the choir and Edgar was in a barbershop quartet and the Masons. Their daughter, Beverly Alice, was born in early 1949. Edgar must have found a new job in 1951 because that’s when they moved to Dunellen, north of New Brunswick, NJ. It was there on Christmas Eve of 1958 that Eleanor died after a long illness.

Edgar returned to Vineland and remarried the next year. Alice presumably remained in North Jersey where she died in 1966 at age 89. She joined Eleanor and the rest of the Bennett family here on the Yeadon side of the cemetery.

Japanese maple tree in front of a monument at Mount Moriah Cemetery

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