Spotlight on Rosemary Locke
President, Board of Governors 1979-1980
In our lives, we have opportunities to make a difference and often those chance encounters can have monumental change years down the road. One night around the year 1971, future military spouses and former spouses would unknowingly have someone looking after their best interests. Feeling frustrated with benefits for military widows, a small group of wives met forging the path for retirees’ wives to receive benefits from the military. This chance meeting between two women, Betty Taussig and Rosemary Locke, formed the beginning of what would be profound leadership, ardent support for other spouses, and the spirit to make it happen. In a time where wives had prescribed duties and appearances to support their husband’s careers, Rosemary was instrumental in breaking those barriers down.
As a first time wife adjusting to life in the military, Rosemary had no real guidebook on what to expect as a wife married to the military. From the customary moving across the country to unknown locations, Rosemary embarked on a life of constant changes that forced her to focus more on her children first and the military duties second. Living the realization of moving frequently, Rosemary knew firsthand what military families needed, from housing to educational issues.
She became President of what was then called the National Military Wives Association (NMWA) in 1979, and solicited support by members of the enlisted community. A public announcement invitation, by then President Jimmy Carter, to attend the White House Conference on Families was the breakthrough for allowing military family issues to be heard. Rosemary’s vision to transition the NMWA’s focus to issues affecting both active and retired spouses was not easy. Rosemary faced strong opposition and challenges with her mission from others in the military as well as some of the wives but she never backed down. At this time, membership was mostly composed of retiree spouses, but under Rosemary’s position, more active duty spouses began to join. Breaking the traditional barriers on divorce, Rosemary was an advocate of retirement pay being considered marital property. Growing on the west coast where divorce constituted a 50/50 split of all property, this seemed to be a natural part of the division. This task proved to be a difficult one due to the overwhelming disapproval of such legislation by members of the military and the Association membership.
Her pioneering activities included road trips to not only the White House Conference on Families but also to various wives clubs to gain additional support and membership from all the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard and the Commissioned Corps of the Public Health Service and the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration.
Rosemary worked tireless hours to further implementation of the law which would impact many former, current, and future military spouses. Her courage, vision and drive were the key to the successes of the NMWA then and the National Military Family Association as it is today.
Until military families are relieved of the weight of war, we hope you will continue to contribute to their wellbeing.
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