Seventy-six years ago, Edith Dondis was anxious to see the world and left Rockland to join the Naval Reserves, also known as the Women Accepted for Emergency Service.

Dondis signed up for the WAVES in November 1942. She was sent to boot camp in Oklahoma before being assigned to the naval district headquarters based in New York City.

The Rockland native was a yeoman and performed various office work, including typing and bookkeeping. She also handled communications about arrivals and departures of ships and personnel, and communications about sightings of German submarines.

She said she also wanted to do something to help her country during World War II. She recalls working late one night when a high-ranking official came in.

"He said 'What are you trying to do, win the war by yourself?'" Dondis said. "I told him I wanted to do what I could for my four brothers who were in the war."

Her brother Maurice joined up first and served on the same destroyer for four years, in both the European and Pacific theaters of war. Her brother Philip was stationed along the coast of the United States during the war. Brother Joseph, who had been a junior at the University of Maine, signed up and saw combat in Okinawa. And her brother Ernest saw combat in Iwo Jima.

All four survived the war.

An illness cut Edith Dondis' service shorter than planned. She returned to Rockland to care for her mother after two years in the WAVES.

At 98, Dondis is one of the dwindling number of World War II veterans in the community. She lives in the house where she was born in 1920, a house her mother purchased in 1918. The house is the last remaining residence on the Tillson Avenue peninsula, now surrounded by commercial businesses.

But Dondis recalls her early years when Tillson Avenue was a melting pot filled with homes, many of which had been grand in their earlier days, as well as shops.

"Tillson Avenue was a community of its own. There was every nationality, every language you could imagine," she said.

Her mother had arrived in the United States in 1900 at the age of 10 from the Poland/Russia area. Her father had come as an infant in the late 1800s from the Ukraine.

Dondis said people on Tillson Avenue helped each other out, especially during the Great Depression of the 1930s.

"We had nothing, but we were all in the same boat," she said.

The women in the neighborhood would care for each other's families when a household came down with sicknesses. The women would also help each other out when they gave birth.

The house at 11 Tillson Ave. that her mother bought in 1918 had sat vacant for eight years. Her mother was a seamstress, and the tailor she worked for suggested she buy the building, which was "falling down."

"It was a fixer-upper," Dondis recalled.

Her father was a peddler and was out on one of the islands off Rockland when her mother decided to buy it. Her grandmother helped the family get the house. Her grandmother ran an antiques store, also known as a junk shop, further down on Tillson Avenue and was friends with many of the fishermen. She went to the fishermen, who agreed to loan the money for the purchase.

Dondis said the house has required continual upkeep, but that everything in the house and every corner has a story to tell.

Dondis attended school in her early years at the Purchase Street School, which was torn down in the early 1960s, and the land is now occupied by houses, and later attended and graduated from Rockland High School (now the Lincoln Street Center).

The Rockland native said she is not sure that she is pleased with how Rockland has changed over the years.

"It's not the city it was. What I miss is the mix of downtown stores. We had two department stores, two to three shoe stores, a grocery store," Dondis recalled. "Now we're a tourist attraction."

She also bemoaned the demolition of the former Custom House building, which was where the parking lot across from the post office is, and a stately church located on Main Street next to the Rockland Harbor Hotel.

Her father also ran a candy store adjacent to the Strand Theatre that her uncle and later a cousin, Meredith Dondis, also operated.