Hillsboro veteran, volunteer serves communities big and small
Community has always been the binding thread throughout Mae “Betty” Pomeroy’s life — especially during her 30-year career in the U.S. Army.
Growing up during World War II, Pomeroy was “enamored” by the idea of joining the military, she remembers.
“When I would get a little upset with a decision my mom and dad would make, I would just say I would join the Army. Lo and behold, I did,” she said.
At 24, Pomeroy decided to take the leap of faith after military recruiters visited the Forest Grove school where she taught in 1958.
Pomeroy started as a second lieutenant in the Women’s Army Corps out of basic training, and she would put her education degree from Oregon State University to use as she served as the commanding officer for multiple companies and battalions.
“We had to house our own women, and we were responsible for them,” she said.
While Pomeroy started her career during a time of gender segregation, she witnessed cultural shifts in integrating sexes in the military. She discussed how she helped break the gender stereotypes attached to “traditional skills,” including teaching men to type and bake.
“During all of this integration, they were trying to integrate job skills from the women’s to the men’s division,” Pomeroy said. “Women were learning to repair things through fixed mechanics, and we were teaching the guys how to type.”
She also talked about how she worked with her troops to adapt to situations, whether lifting up shorter soldiers to help them throw hand grenades out of the pits or helping troops keep up by adjusting the marching order.
When Pomeroy was not commanding, she found herself in several different positions. She spent multiple years as a recruitment officer and eventually became involved in public affairs after attending the Defense Information School in Maryland.
She got her first job at the Pentagon in the community relations department, dealing with a time of unrest during the Vietnam War.
“I was learning a whole new dimension of things because it was the first time we were in an armed conflict since I had joined,” she said.
Pomeroy ultimately retired as a colonel in 1988, having served in Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama, Virginia, Hawaii and Okinawa.
But even after finishing her time in the military, Pomeroy’s ambition to help others did not relent.
After moving back to Oregon, Pomeroy kept herself busy with jobs in the area. She then shifted her focus to volunteering to help local veterans, which involved refilling local veterans’ prescription pharmaceuticals.
She helped counsel widows and widowers through death benefits, and she also assisted with finding donations to help unhoused veterans and seniors unable to purchase medical supplies.
Pomeroy also prides herself on being the first woman to serve on the Governor’s Advisory Committee for the Oregon Department of Veteran Affairs, and she formerly served as the chair of Washington County’s Disability, Aging & Veteran Services Advisory Council.
In more recent efforts, Pomeroy spends most of her volunteer time at the Pomeroy Place — an affordable housing complex in Aloha named in her honor, recognizing her long military and civilian life service, working on behalf of servicemembers and veterans.
The apartments provide 20 units for low-income veterans and seniors. Pomeroy explained she works with the tenants to provide them with the necessary resources to “thrive.”
“The great thing is that those families are thriving because they have stability there,” she said.
Just like in the Army, Pomeroy finds gratification in helping others, and she credits her upbringing to helping her continue to champion her communal values.
“There’s a lot of value in growing up in a small community, and if you’re fortunate enough to have that, you’ve got the foundation to help inspire others,” Pomeroy said.