Marjorie was born in Conway, Massachusetts, in 1924. After high school, she attended North Adams State Teachers College in North Adams, Massachusetts, where she majored in education. Marjorie began dating her future husband, Gus, during her sophomore year of college. Gus received a Navy commission in 1942 and was sent to California.
Seeking to escape her small town and not particularly happy with teaching, Marjorie signed up with the U.S. Navy Waves (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) in 1943. She was commissioned in March 1944 and ordered to Mt. Holyoke College for communications training. From there she would end up living in Wave Quarters B near Ohio Drive in southwest Washington, D.C. She was assigned to a decoding unit in a nameless building on Nebraska Avenue. Marjorie says “We were expected only to breath and work. We ate lunch at our desks, sandwich in one hand, while working with the other.”
Gus was reassigned to the east coast and, on June 16, 1944, he and Marjorie were married at the Navy Chapel. They enjoyed a brief honeymoon in Virginia Beach, and went right back to work. “Growing up with the idea that our newspapers always told the truth, I quickly learned about propaganda. The headlines were telling of how many Japanese we had killed, how we were winning the war. But behind the walls on Nebraska Avenue, we knew the truth. Casualties were high, it was terrible.” Marjorie was honorably discharged from active duty on November 30, 1945.
She and Gus settled in Vienna, Virginia, where they raised their three children, Sara, Andrea and David. While she didn’t teach in a classroom for very long before joining the Navy, Marjorie would remain involved in education throughout her life. She tutored several children while starting her own family, and resumed that work after moving to Boynton Beach, Florida.
While living in Richmond, Virginia, she volunteered at the local elementary school and had many private students, both children and adults, and was very active in the adult literacy program there. Her private students were usually those with learning disabilities or attention deficit disorder who had struggled in mainstream classrooms. Many went on to college and successful lives. Marjorie and Gus enjoyed traveling to England, Scotland, Ireland, Nova Scotia, and Alaska, and spending time with their children and grandchildren after returning to live in Reston, Virginia. Gus passed away in 2014 after 68 years of marriage.
An account of Marjorie’s wartime experiences appears with those of her colleagues in Liza Mundy’s recent bestselling book, “Code Girls,” the story of World War II’s female cryptographers. Marjorie said that “Looking back, maybe I didn’t save the world or do anything spectacular, but I was truly involved in a major historical event and I would not trade those years for anything. I met wonderful, loyal, patriotic people who put our country first. I had never been so proud to say that I was an American.”
We are fortunate to have Marjorie Faeder as part of our family here at Kensington Park. We thank her for paving the way for others and for her devoted service to our country.
(Parts of this article were taken from an article written by Marjorie, titled “A Wave on Nebraska Avenue.”)