A Living Rosie Legacy at Visit Richmond
How does a little girl grow up in Richmond without knowing about Rosie the Riveter, and then go on to carry the torch for her hero? Let me share a little bit about Desiree Heveroh, our Office Manager and Rosie, with you.
It’s hard to describe just how much Rosie the Riveter means to Desiree. But I’ve witnessed it in many ways: in how animated she becomes talking about Rosie; in her excitement when she can “dress Rosie” for an event; in her anticipation of ANY Rosie-related event, including the annual Rosie Rally Home Front Festival; or just in how touched she feels when hearing “a Rosie” speak at an event or reading one of the many Rosie Diaries at the Rosie the Riveter Museum /WWII Home Front National Museum & Historic Park.
Homegrown — 3 Generations of Richmond Natives
Rosie, er, Desiree, is a native of Richmond, growing up in the house her grandparents bought when they came to the city in the 60’s, and where her parents were born. And her own daughter was born and raised in Richmond, making it a Richmond family of four generations — three of them native born!
She attended Richmond schools, and was recruited to the Middle College High School Program on the Contra Costa College Campus where students complete high school and their first two years of college at the same time. She double majored in Biological Sciences and Liberal Arts because her dream was to be an Orthodontist. She didn’t end up going to dental school because she had a child, but did become a dental assistant – a job she loved for over 20 years!
But growing up she didn’t learn much about Richmond, or the Homefront, or Rosie the Riveter.
Learning to think Rosie-style
Desiree knew who Rosie the Riveter was but didn’t know that her origins were in Richmond. She had more of a Norman Rockwell image of her.
But over the years she took her daughter to the pancake breakfast and the 4th of July BBQ on the Red Oak Victory Ship, part of the Richmond Museum of History, and that’s where she started to learn about the real Rosie the Riveter (and Wendy the Welder). She joined the museum’s board of directors and learned more about Rosie, the shipyards and Henry J. Kaiser.
She was amazed to learn that Rosie is from Richmond and loved hearing “the Rosies” speak. Rosie used to represent a general sort of Girl Power, but after hearing them speak, the history meant so much more. She says, “It meant that we can do more. Women were taught from infancy that their role was to get married and raise children. The war was an opportunity for Women to realize themselves much more capable. Having to leave their shipbuilding jobs after the war and go back to housekeeping as if they didn’t just realize the power that lied in their potential — that conflict really made me realize that women are amazing and they found out they were amazing in that time of Rosie.” This is what the image represents to her now. Rosie is a universally recognized symbol and Desiree is able to start a conversation about Richmond with anyone in the world through Rosie.
Desiree meeting Kermit the frog at LA travel show in 2019
Branching Out, Rosie-style
After her daughter grew up, she was free to break away from the 9-to-5 and branch out to follow her passions, which ultimately led her to us!
She got to know just about everybody in Richmond when she worked for “John Z” (John Ziesenhenne of MA Hays) during his mayoral run, assisted Marsha Tomassi in her long-time Richmond catering business, and joined the board of the East Brother Light Station. Each experience taught her something important about people, events, and most of all, Richmond.
And through Marsha Tomassi she was introduced to Visit Richmond where she started on a part-time temporary basis. Many years later, she’s still with us!
Desiree thinks her approach is a little unorthodox because she goes where her heart leads her but for us at Visit Richmond it works out well — because she LOVES people and events. And she’s truly in it for the people – she can talk to people from all walks of life and find a way to connect with them about Richmond in a way that interests them. See her on the cover of KTVU’s story!
When she came to Visit Richmond she had the idea of dressing as Rosie for our events and it’s become a fun part of our brand. She doesn’t always have time to do her full dress, so she created “Business Rosie” — a navy blue dress, red shoes, and the kerchief, which she unveiled at a City Council meeting. It was a big hit!
If you want to get Rosie Talking, mention the Light Station
Her favorite Richmond “gem” is the East Brother Light Station. She says “YOU HAVE NO IDEA how bad you wanna go there!”
Desiree has been involved with the Lighhouse for 10 years, first volunteering and now on the board of directors (for 7 years). She says there’s always a way to get to know the Light Station.
- Sign up to be a volunteer and be there. Do a little work and get free lunch. Roam about!
- 4 Hour Day Trip. $25. Take lunch or pay $25 for all organic and local and gourmet. Explore!
- Overnight $385-425. (You can split it with a bunk buddy!) Tours and meals included.
But whatever you do, you will be back – it’s that special.
The Richmond Brand according to Rosie
“Like the rest of the Bay Area we’re changing. We’re sprouting up business and residential opportunities everywhere”, says Desiree.
“We’re sort of an under the radar version of everything that’s around us AND we’re close to everything. We’re very central and we make everything accessible. We are one of the few cities you can get to by auto, rail and water and we have our own bridge to Marin. It’s a great place to start for San Francisco sightseeing, UC Berkeley visits, and so on.”
The Heart and Soul of Richmond
“But the heart and soul of Richmond to me is the melting pot that it is, thanks to the brilliance of Henry J. Kaiser. Kaiser didn’t care what color or gender you were – if you could DO the job you HAD the job. He advertised all over the U.S. and he was paying triple. He didn’t care if you’re black or white, man or woman, so people were working side-by-side with each other every day. Richmond was the original melting pot.
“Since the times of the shipyards and that influx of workers, Richmond had to have different thinking: more tolerance, more acceptance, more openness. It makes me proud. Richmond is capable of really amazing things. As Richmond changes, this is what stays the same. We work side by side. Just like Rosie.”
-Matt Lewis, Homegrown Rosie’s Biggest Fan
Desiree & Matt at the 2018 Rosie Rally
Desiree & Shirley Butt at the 2018 Rosie Ralley
Desiree & Cesar Zepeda Rosies at the 2018 Rosie Ralley