NEW BETHLEHEM – Cooking for a large group can always be a chore, but preparing daily meals for a military unit can be especially challenging.
That’s what New Bethlehem area resident Judy Schrecengost discovered when, at 23, she enlisted in the now-disbanded Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps — which later became the Women’s Army Corps, the women’s active duty branch of the United States Army — as a cook during World War II.
“I cooked for hundreds of people every day,” she said of her service, which began in September 1942 and ended in April 1945.
Having just celebrated her 100th birthday on Oct. 31, Schrecengost, a resident at Edgewood Heights, took some time to reflect on her time in the corps.
As one of 10 children, she said she joined the military because she had multiple brothers who were already serving. She said that she always liked to cook so the choice seemed natural.
“My parents were supportive [of my decision],” Schrecengost said.
Traveling from her home just north of Duluth, Minn., Schrecengost went to Florida where she was trained at a bakers and cooks school in Daytona Beach.
Following her training, she was stationed in Mississippi where she and three or four other cooks were responsible for preparing three meals a day for everyone on the large base.
“We cooked everything,” Schrecengost said. “It takes a lot of time to cook for so many people.”
When they weren’t working, Schrecengost recalled fond memories of going to movies with many of the people she served with, noting that she stayed in touch with a few of her military friends for several years following her discharge.
In fact, it was during her service that Schrecengost met her late husband, Jack, a Fairmount City native who was also serving in the Army as a soldier.
Although she never served overseas, Schrecengost said she enjoyed having the opportunity to travel to different places stateside during her Army years.
“We didn’t stay in one place very long,” she recalled. “We were always going someplace [new].”
After their time in the military, Schrecengost and her husband returned to the New Bethlehem area to live and raise their two children. Schrecengost stayed at home with her children for several years, before eventually taking a job as a cook and waitress at the Village Dairy Store in New Bethlehem.
In her later years, she volunteered at Edgewood Heights, and has always enjoyed gardening and doing volunteer work for her church.