Beloved Raleigh military and civil rights pioneer Millie Dunn Veasey basked in the praise of family, friends and admirers at her 100th birthday party on Jan. 31 at a North Raleigh restaurant.
The spirited birthday luncheon at Winston's turned out to be a final farewell to a community that deeply admired her.
Haywood Funeral Home in Raleigh reported that Veasey, who enlisted in the Women's Army Corps during World War II and served as the first woman president of the Raleigh NAACP, died Friday.
Her family members could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
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A Raleigh native and one of six children, Veasey graduated from Washington High School in 1942 and enlisted in what was then known as the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps.
“I didn’t weigh more than 102 pounds and didn’t know how to tie my tie,” she wrote in a living history of her life.
Veasey enlisted with three other African American women from Raleigh. All four were stationed in Colorado for basic training.
“The first time it rained I remember lying in bed,” Veasey wrote. “The sergeant came in and said, ‘What are you doing?’ I said, ‘It’s raining. I can’t do drills in the rain.’ She said, ‘Get up! The Army doesn’t care if it’s raining!’”
During World War II, she was a member of the 6888 – the “Six-Triple Eight” – Central Postal Battalion. The unit was the only all-black, all-female battalion to serve overseas during World War II. Veasey served in France and England with the unit, which sorted and routed mountains of mail for millions of American service members and civilians.
Veasey said the most memorable moment of serving in the Army was V-E Day, the official end of World War II in the European theater. She was on leave in London, beneath Big Ben, when the Allies declared victory.
Veasey was selected for Officer Candidate School at the war’s end, but she discharged in 1945 to continue her education. She returned to Raleigh and attended St. Augustine’s College on the G.I. Bill. She graduated in 1953 with a degree in business administration and a minor in English. She taught business education and eighth grade English in Matthews, Va., then came back to Raleigh, where she worked as secretary to the St. Aug’s president, James Boyer, before retiring in 1986.
News reports of Veasey's centennial celebration were followed by invitations from groups near and far, who wanted Veasey to share her life story.
"What an inspiring woman and she is local!," Sabina F. Bharwani, a guidance counselor at Wendell Middle School, wrote in an email to The News & Observer. "I work at a middle school in Wendell, and we are planning to have a Black History event at end of February. I thought it would be amazing to have Mrs.Veasey come and speak to our students/community."
Patrick Brown, a member of the Greater Burlington, Vt., Multicultural Resource Center, invited Veasey to be the featured speaker next year at the group's annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Remembrance.
Veasey and her husband, Warren L. Veasey, had two children – Juanita and Warren Jr., who both live in California.
A funeral service for Veasey will be held at noon Friday, March 16, at St. Ambrose Episcopal Church on Darby Street in Raleigh. Interment will be Monday, March 19, at Raleigh National Cemetery.