"It was really fantastic," said Marian Sousa, 87, of El Sobrante. "We're still on a high. You hear the expression that something blows your mind -- well now I know what that means."
The group of visiting Rosies also consisted of Sousa's sister, Phyllis Gould, 92, of Fairfax in Marin County; Priscilla Elder, 93, of Pinole; Agnes Moore, 94, of Rossmoor; Marian Wynn, 87, of Fairfield; and Kay Morrison, 90, of Fairfield; along with a contingent of helpers.
The group's visit was far more than a political photo op. The Rosies, as they are known, got personal, behind-the-scenes tours of the White House, the vice president's residence, Capitol Hill and the Pentagon. They also met top members of the Cabinet, including Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, and six members of Congress from California.
They were interviewed for "Good Morning America" and sat down for a meal with Biden, who extended the invitation in October in response to a relentless letter-writing campaign of more than a decade by Gould.
The biggest moment came during the White House tour, when President Barack Obama made a surprise visit to give a hug and a kiss to each of the women. Morrison, in turn, had a surprise for the president, giving him a kiss on the cheek.
"It's like a grandson, and I just gave him a kiss," she said. "Just meeting him and the vice president was so exciting. I've never had an experience like that in my life -- except when I had my children."
The trip more than exceeded their expectations, Elder said, "especially when you think of our ages that something like that happened so late in our lives. It took me a week and a half to get straightened out. They were so friendly, like they always knew us."
The president and vice president "came and talked to us like we were old friends," Moore said. "It was magic."
The Rosies were greeted everywhere they went and "posed for pictures with anybody who asked about our polka dot scarves," Sousa said.
"Of all the buildings we saw and people we met, the lasting impression was of smiling faces," she said. "We were happy to see them, but they were happy to see us. Almost in tears."
Since their return, the Rosies have been celebrated at a gala banquet for the nonprofit Rosie the Riveter Trust and been honored at an event hosted by Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord.
They have also resumed their weekly role as the star attractions at the national park visitors center, where they talk to guests each afternoon.
On Friday, Moore left the visitors center to give a talk to students in Martinez.
"The whole thing was like a dream," she said. "You just never think about having those experiences."
If you go
The public can meet the Rosies from from (with a lunch break from ) on Fridays at the Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park visitors center, 1414 Harbour Way South in Richmond. The center is installing new permanent exhibits that will be unveiled at a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 10 a.m. May 24, with special programs scheduled throughout the day.
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