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Woman believed to be oldest female Marine in West dies weeks before 105th birthday

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Posted at 10:31 AM, Mar 17, 2021

SAN DIEGO, Calif. — A San Diego woman who is believed to have been the oldest female Marine west of the Mississippi passed away just three weeks before her 105th birthday.

Ruth Gallivan first joined the military during World War II.

“When the call came out for women to join the Marines, she signed up in 1944, February 29th, she joined the Marines,” said Mike Gallivan, her son.

Mike said his mom went through bootcamp at Camp Lejeune. She was initially stationed in North Carolina and her first job was helping check weather balloons. After discovering she had a fear of heights, she jumped on another opportunity to move west and help set up the first barracks for women.

“So, when they put out a notice that they were going to put a bunch of women Marines on a train and send them out to San Diego to open up a Miramar Marine base, she was the first to raise her hand,” said Mike.

After the war, Ruth then enlisted in civil service at Miramar and later worked at MCRD for 35 years after that.

Ruth passed away Friday, March 12, 2021, about three weeks shy of her 105th birthday.

The morning she passed away, she was able to open a few birthday cards that arrived early. Mike said those cards made her last day a good one.

Mike added that she still has a large basket filled with cards from her 100th birthday that she’s kept. He said all of the cards she received on milestone birthdays since then have been special keepsakes for her.

“Look at this, oh it’s from Alaska, I got a card from Alaska, oh look at these 6 year old kids, they wrote me a birthday card,” said Mike, describing her excitement. He then paused, choking up, saying, “So if anybody sees this that wrote my mom a birthday card… it really meant something to her, and I think it means something to all the veterans.”

April 1, 2021 would have been the day Ruth turned 105. Mike said they’ll be holding her memorial service that day, so she will still be celebrated. However, only 10 people will be allowed at the service because of coronavirus restrictions. Mike said even if people can’t be at the service in person, they can still remember her that day.

“So, we’ll call her friends and have them raise a toast to mom on her 105th. She would love that.”

This story was originally published by Leah Pezzetti at KGTV.