Costume contest winner has riveting story to tell


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A surprised Robert Welo, next to wife Mardi to the right, learns he is the winning “Rosie.” Senior Life Cory Davis

The winner of the “Keep the Spirit of ‘45 Alive” Rosie the Riveter look-alike contest is … a guy?

The boomer-age Cocoa Beach resident simply wanted to honor his father by wearing his World War II uniform to the event, which marked the 70th anniversary of the happy day the war ended.

“I was clearing out a closet after my parents passed away and I came upon this uniform that my mom had cleaned and pressed in perfect condition, as if it was ready for my dad to step into it and walk out the door,” Robert Welo said, taking the microphone on the stage after he recovered from the surprise win.

The contest was designed to attract more people to come in costume to the Aug. 14 Senior Life event at Space Coast Convention Center in Cocoa reflecting the WWII era. The event debuted a video portraying a sampling of 50 Space Coast residents interviewed on their first-hand accounts of the day they heard World War II was over.

Bios and photos of those who were not included are featured on these pages to mark the Sept. 2, 1945 official V-J Day when Japan signed surrender papers, or were featured last month to mark the Aug. 14 initial surrender announcement.

“The costumes, the exhibits, the video, it’s just like day I experienced, all the joy, all the relief, all the celebrating, all the promise that all we had suffered through was now over,” said Margaret Bayer, who shared her emotions spurred by the video immediately after it aired.

It was just what Jill Blue-Gaines wanted to hear. CEO of the marketing and events firm Bluewater Creative Group that publishes Senior Life and other media, Blue-Gaines hoped for a re-creation of the day.

“I loved hearing from people that the video and the event ‘put them there right back in the day.’ This also means those of us who came after, and those who see the video in the future, will have a pretty good sense of that magical day.”

Coming in a close second in the contest was an actual Rosie, Welo’s wife, Mardi, sporting the iconic head scarf and work clothes as if she were stepping off an assembly line during the 1940s when women were called in to work in factories — retooled to fabricate fighter planes rather than automobiles — so men could go off to war.

“There aren’t that many occasions to dress like that, so when I read about it in the paper I thought it would be a lot of fun to do, and it sure was.”

Does she begrudge her husband’s winnings of a dinner-for-two at Carrabba’s?’

“Heck no, I get to eat, too.”  SL