What can one woman accomplish in 100 years? A full life, well-lived if you are Reva Stern Stetten Gornbein (b. September 10, 1920). Her path has been a kaleidoscope of life-changing experiences and rich adventures… US Army Enlisted. Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps (WAAC) Officer. Radio Mechanic – Bomber Transmitters & Receivers. Drill Sergeant. WWII War Crimes Court-Martial Processor. Mother. Public School Teacher. World Traveler. Grandmother. Tax Prep Volunteer. Social Media Maven. Centenarian. This is Reva’s story as told on her 100th birthday by her very proud granddaughter, Chesley Stetten.
By Chesley Stetten – Born in Detroit, Michigan in 1920 to Polish and Russian immigrants, Reva was the youngest of three children. She lost her mother to cancer at the age of twelve. In high school, she and her girlfriends founded a sorority they called “Alpha Gamma Phi”, which meant “always good friends”, an important theme which has flowed throughout Reva’s life.
After high school, Reva enlisted in the US Army so she could see the world. She served from 1943 until 1946 in the United States and Europe. Reva joined the Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps stationed at Turner Field in Albany, Georgia, where she worked as a radio mechanic. She worked on bombers and attack planes and became a troubleshooter for the transmitters and receivers on the airplanes. Later, she became a Drill Sergeant at Turner Field.
In August 1945, Reva went to France and Germany where she worked in the European Theatre of Operations, which was responsible for “directing United States Army operations throughout the European theatre of World War II, from 1942 to 1945,” and in command of Army Ground Forces, United States Army Air Forces, and Army Service Forces operations north of Italy and the Mediterranean coast. In Berlin, she worked in the Judge Advocate General’s Department, which handled World War II war crimes, participating in court-martial processes. Reva was responsible for bringing Hitler’s secretary back to Berlin to be court-martialed. She supervised twelve civilians and enlisted personnel, and continued to serve as a radio mechanic.
In Germany, Reva met her first husband, Warren Stetten, who was also enlisted in the US Army, serving overseas. They returned to the United States to live and raise children in Detroit, Michigan. While her son was off to college, she tragically lost her 17-year-old daughter in a horrific car accident – a drunk driver killed her. Afterwards, Reva got involved in Mothers Against Drunk Driving, and to keep busy she utilized the GI Bill to go to college. Reva graduated with a Master’s Degree in Education, and then taught for a decade in the Detroit public schools system.
Never one to sit still, after retiring from teaching Reva began playing bridge and teaching bridge lessons. She’s also always been a voracious reader and lover of politics. For nearly thirty years, she became a snowbird and left Detroit winters for sunny spring weather in San Diego, California. She and her second husband, Abe Gornbein, loved spending time in Coronado with their friends. In the year 2000, she began spending the winters in Wrightsville Beach, NC to be closer to her son and grandchildren. In 2017 she relocated to Wilmington, full-time, and loves that she hasn’t seen snow since leaving Michigan.
“You must have a lot of friends you can depend on.” – Reva Stern Stetten Gornbein, age 100, on living your best life
In 2010, the Internal Revenue Service recognized Reva for her time with the New Hanover County Department of Aging for her work assisting and preparing income tax forms for elderly members of the community residing in nursing homes.
Reva is adventurous and loves to travel. She’s taken many trips all over the world during her life and among her favorite destinations are New York City and Antarctica. Reva loves to stay connected to her family and friends on Facebook and is an avid user of technology and her beloved iPhone.
Reva’s Advice To Women
Having now lived through 100 years of history, experiencing wars and strife, change and progress, challenges and triumphs, WYSK asked Reva… “What’s the one piece of advice you have for women to live their best lives?” Her answer… “You must have a lot of friends you can depend on.”
Happy, happy, happy 100th birthday Reva. Thank you for inspiring all of us to live our best lives, well and fully, always.