Ruth Kent Petker grew up in Greensboro, North Carolina, and graduated from Greensboro Senior High School in 1941. She worked for a year or two at F.W. Woolworth’s and then at a Burlington Industries hosiery plant.
In February 1943, Petker joined the WAVES, and in March she was sent to basic training at Hunter College in the Bronx, New York. She also completed six months of airplane mechanics training in Norman, Oklahoma. Petker’s first duty station was Opa-locka Air Base in Miami, Florida, but she was not needed there, so she went to Jacksonville [Florida] Naval Air Station instead, in November 1943. There she worked in the assembly and repair shop, taking engines apart, before her transfer to a fighter squadron, where she taught instrument training. She left the WAVES in November 1945 as an aviation and machinist mate, third class.
Petker attended the Woman’s College of the University of North Carolina (now University of North Carolina at Greensboro) and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on the GI Bill and studied art. She worked at a department store, Morris and Neese, in the drapery department, and later went to New York City to work as a technical illustrator for an engineering company. She met her husband, also a navy veteran, in New York. Ruth Petker died in March 2005.