100 Years Young
Reva Gornbein Turns 100
It is an honor and privilege to share the amazing story and life of our beloved grandmother, Reva Stern Stetten Gornbein who turned 100 years old on September 10, 2020.
Reva's family shared this article, which was published in the Wilmington, North Carolina Star News Online. The article image was taken in New York City, overlooking Central Park – circa 1940s.
Born in Detroit, Mich., in 1920 to Polish and Russian immigrants, Reva was the youngest of three children. She lost her mother to cancer at the age of 12. In high school, she and her girlfriends founded a sorority they called “Alpha Gamma Phi” which meant “always good friends.” After high school, she enlisted in the U.S. Army so she could see the world and she served from 1943 until 1946 in the United States and Europe. She joined the Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps stationed at Turner Field in Albany, Ga., 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. In Berlin, she worked in the judge advocate section and participated in court-martial processes. She was also responsible for bringing Hitler’s secretary back to Berlin to be court-martial. She supervised 12 civilians and enlisted personnel, and served as a radio mechanic.
In Germany she met her first husband, Warren Stetten, who was also enlisted in the U.S. Army and serving overseas. They returned to live and raise children in Detroit, and while her son was off to college, she lost her 17-year old daughter in a horrific car accident where a drunk driver killed her. Afterwards, Reva got involved in Mothers Against Drunk Driving and to keep busy she utilized the G.I. Bill, went to college, and graduated with a master’s degree in education. Subsequently, she taught for a decade in public schools in Detroit.
Never one to sit still and after retiring from teaching, she began playing bridge and teaching bridge lessons and was always a voracious reader and lover of politics. For nearly 30 years, she became a snowbird and left Detroit winters for sunny spring weather in San Diego, Calif. 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, 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.
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 took many trips all over the world during her life and among her favorites were 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.
Pictured below: Women's Army Corps uniform, 1943; Reva's 99th birthday in 2019.