GREENWOOD, Mississippi — A historical marker honoring the life of Capt. Viola Brown Sanders is back on the street that bears the distinguished naval officer's name after being knocked down twice.
Sanders attained the rank of captain in the U.S. Navy. When she retired in 1966, she was the highest-ranking female officer in the service.
She returned to Leflore County upon retirement and lived in Sidon for many years before moving to Greenwood. She died April 28 at the age of 92.
Rescuing the 91-pound cast aluminum marker, which describes Sanders' naval career, presented difficulties when it was first found broken off its post more than two years ago.
Cast aluminum cannot be welded, or it will shatter, said Johnny Favara, commander of American Legion Post 29, which purchased the sign and which proudly claimed Sanders as a member.
Hopes for saving the sign, which cost more than $2,000, presented a challenge. "Super-gluing" it worked for about four or five months, but the sign fell a second time in 2012.
Favara said Horace Kitchell, owner of Delta Machine Works, was able to fasten the marker to a sturdy two-legged frame, which was then placed in concrete along Capt. Viola Brown Sanders Drive.
The cost for the frame came to $450, Favara said.
"I said, 'Let me have a couple of days and I'm going to make my rounds to some very dear friends and ask each of them to give a little bit and we'll pay you for it,'" Favara said.
On Favara's first visit — to a fellow member of Post 29 — he secured the entire $450, provided the donor's identity remain anonymous.
"Folks like that are special," Favara said.
The post also maintains a marker for Sgt. John A. Pittman, a Korean War Medal of Honor recipient, along Sgt. John A. Pittman Drive in North Greenwood.
Replacing the Sanders marker would have presented a financial hardship for Post 29. Its membership, which now numbers around 185 people, has thinned as many World War II veterans have passed on.
The framing solution provided by Kitchell means the marker is back up and visible to the public.
Every Leflore County resident should know Sanders' story of loyalty and sacrifice, Favara said.
"Viola was a very important person," he said. "She dedicated her life to the military. She excelled in it. She did a great job."
Favara said returning the marker to its location is important to preserving Sanders' legacy of service.
"We don't just need a name on a street sign," he said.
Sanders, a 1937 graduate of Greenwood High School, graduated from Sunflower Junior College, now known as Mississippi Delta Community College, in Moorhead and Delta State Teachers' College, now known as Delta State University, in Cleveland.
When she joined the Navy in 1943, her brother, who was already in the service, administered the oath to her.
Later, when her brother was assigned for sea duty, she replaced him in his position in New Orleans.
Sanders retired from the Navy in 1966, where she served as director of Women in the Navy.
In 1967, the Navy changed its rules allowing women to attain higher ranks, such as admiral.
Sanders returned to Sidon and supervised the family's cotton farm.
Information from: The Greenwood Commonwealth, http://www.gwcommonwealth.com