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Norman Rockwell's 'Rosie the Riveter' model dies at 92

Norman Rockwell's 'Rosie the Riveter' model dies at 92
Norman Rockwell's 1943 oil on canvas "Rosie the Riveter," now displayed at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Ark. (Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art / AP)

Mary Doyle Keefe was a 19-year-old telephone operator in Arlington, Vt., when in 1943 she posed as a model for Norman Rockwell, her neighbor. She sat only twice for the painter, earning $5 a session. But her image as "Rosie the Riveter," the symbol of female independence and patriotism during World War II, lives on.

Keefe died Tuesday in Simsbury, Conn., after a brief illness, her daughter, Mary Ellen Keefe, told the Associated Press. She was 92.

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Rockwell's painting, which depicts a much beefier version of the then-slender, red-headed Keefe, appeared on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post on May 29, 1943. It shows Keefe in denim work overalls seated in front of an American flag; she has a sandwich in one hand, aviator glasses on her head and a rivet gun on her lap.

The painting is now part of the permanent collection at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Ark.

"The artist apologized for making her arms and shoulders much larger than they were in-person, but Keefe seemed to take it in stride," the Norman Rockwell Museum said on its Facebook page. "Her image became a symbol for millions of American women who went to work during World War II."

Keefe had a degree in dental hygiene from Temple University. She and husband of 55 years, Robert Keefe, who died in 2003, lived in Whitman, Mass., and then Nashua, N.H. They had four children.

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