On the mantlepiece in Virginia Stuart's apartment near Wayland Square, a large bronze medal bears the letters OSS. A year ago, Congress presented the award to Virginia and others who served at the Office of Strategic Services: the country's first secret intelligence agency and precursor to the CIA, from 1942-45.
In 1944, it numbered 13,000 people; last year, fewer than 100 were still with us.
Virginia grew up on the East Side and studied English, Psychology, and History at Skidmore College. After graduation, while visiting her sister, a Navy ensign at the Bethesda Institute put her in touch with a friend of his to discuss an intriguing career opportunity. Two months later, in November 1943, a telegram
arrived inviting Virginia to join the OSS.
"I didn't know what they wanted me for, but that was alright, because the OSS was very secretive," she says. She notes that she wasn't a spy or an informer but worked with "highly classified information."
The OSS stationed her first in Cairo and then in rural Kunming in Yunnan, China, where she met not only her husband, the dashing Australian officer Gilbert "Gil" Stuart, but also renowned chef and personality Julia Childs.
In 1955, she became Rhode Island's first TV newswoman, earning her own 15-minute morning news spot on Channel 12. Years later, she met President Kennedy while shadowing then-Congressman Fogarty for a day in Washington, DC. Virginia and Gil lived around the world and had four children, nine grandchildren, and eight great-grandchildren, but Gil passed away "far too young." Afterwards, Virginia worked various jobs in Los Angeles, New York City, and Providence in management and public relations for mostly nonprofits.
Needless to say, Virginia has lived a truly remarkable life, but she is never one to boast: "My life has been a progression of doing interesting things - one of which led to another. I've loved everything I've done, and everything has been an accumulation of experiences and learning, which has enabled me to do what I want to do."