"My instinct was to get right to the Internet and look it up. Then I sent off to get a poster so she could sign it," stated Patricia
Since posing for Norman Rockwell in 1942, while she lived in Arlington VT, Mary Doyle Keefe has signed countless autographs and posters. Patricia Berberich, 79, is old enough to have heard of the Rockwell poster girl, Rosie the Riveter, but it wasn't until she checked online that she knew the woman she had been dining with was her.
Keefe, 85, still thinks of herself as an accidental celebrity and gets a thrill telling the story of how she posed twice as a red-haired 19 year-old for Rockwell. She and Rockwell were neighbors in VT and he knew who she was was when he asked her to pose for him. He traditionally had his photographer take the pictures and Rockwell would cut out what he wanted from the pictures. She ended up posing twice because her original outfit of a white blouse beneath the overalls and saddle shoes were not what Rockwell wanted. Her second sitting with a blue blouse and penny loafers was the look he wanted.
"The kidding you took was all my fault, because I really thought you were the most beautiful woman I had ever seen," apologized Rockwell.
Keefe stated that she got endless kidding not for the pose she struck but for the changes Rockwell had made to her look. She states that she did not look much like that in real life, especially the muscular arms of "Rosie." Keefe doesn't even think she is all that special for posing since many of the local townspeople in Arlington posed for Rockwell in the 10 years he lived there. Her uncle was in all four of the well-known "Four Freedoms" images Rockwell painted. Bill Keefe, Mary's oldest son states that they would spend family trips there as a boy spotting residents and listening to which paintings they were in. He added that they always had an interesting topic for show and tell or school research because of it.
Rosie first appeared on the cover of The Saturday Evening Post in 1943 and later, on war bond posters. About 10 years ago, Bill states the proudest he was of his parents was when they were invited to a private tour of the Rockwell exhibition at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washigton D C. In 2002, Mary and her now late husband Bob, were invited to New York by Sotheby's for an auction to watch the Rosie the Riveter painting go for a then world record price of $4.9 million.
Keefe has kept a low profile after moving recently to an apartment at the McLean Home, Simsbury CT, from New Hampshire so that she could be closer to her daughter in Granby CT. After she had posed for the now famous poster, she graduated from college, worked as a dental hygienist, married and raised four children. She has also enjoyed her fame, signing autographs at numerous events and appearing on both "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" and "Good Morning America" during the 50th anniversary of D-Day.
It would seem that Mary has taken life in stride and has added the fame her posing for Rockwell's poster to a colorful and still active life.