Floye Miller Utter was born in December of 1918 in Rocky Hill, a town 65 miles north of Little Rock, Arkansas. She was the ninth child born into the family but the first to be born in Arkansas in the log cabin on their farm. All thirteen siblings were taught in a one-room schoolhouse that they walked to each day. When they weren’t in school, they were helping on the farm. Each Christmas, they would receive an apple and an orange in their sock on Christmas morning. The apples they grew on the farm, but the oranges were a special treat as they were not easy to come by.
In 1936, at 18 years old, FLoye moved to San Diego. She married her first husband, and they had three children together. The Army drafted her first husband when he was close to 30 years old, leaving her to raise their children. Floye recalled with a laugh, “I think he was glad to get away from me and the little children.” With three small children to feed, Floye got to work, although she stated, “I would’ve loved to be a woman that was training for war, but I wasn’t physically big enough.” At 5 feet and 2 inches, she was told she was too small, but even if she were taller, they wouldn’t have taken her because she had young children.
Floye found a job at Consolidated Aircraft doing inspections on circuit boards that were used in aircraft during WWII. With the war going on, there were more women than men working with her. She reminisced about her first day on the job, recalling, “They put me on the drop hammer, and I didn’t even know what it was!” She went on the say, “They told me don’t put your hands under there or you won’t have any hands!” Floye continued to work at Consolidated Aircraft for about 15 years as an inspector.
Never wanting to sit still and knowing the importance of hard work from being raised on a farm, Floye continued to work her entire life. She eventually took a job as an inspector with Teledyne Ryan in San Diego. She inspected the circuit boards for the lunar landing gear for one of the Apollo Missions, even getting to meet the astronauts. Her memory was fuzzy on who she met, but she remembered it was a big deal and even admitted she would’ve loved to have been an astronaut. Around 1964 while working at Teledyne Ryan she met her future second husband, Arley Utter. They were both working at Teledyne Ryan, but employees were prohibited from being married. When asked if it was love at first sight, Floye giggled and said, “not hardly, no.” she continued expressing, “He was a very good guy; kind, gentle, and thoughtful.” The couple cohabitated for years before they were able to retire and marry. Like her first husband, Arley was drafted by the Army for WWII. He never wanted to talk to her about his days in the military, “He thought it was too rough for me to know,” she remembered. One thing she knew about Arley’s military career was that he was part of the unit that was hunting Rommel in WWII. Arley wasn’t able to talk about his position at Teledyne Ryan since it was classified information.
Floye loved to travel, but after years of traveling around Europe and Africa in WWII, Arley did not feel the same way and hated to fly. Floye got him on a flight to New York to visit his family, the only flight he took since the war, and he got lost in the airport, almost missing the flight altogether. Arley’s fear of flying did not stop the independent Floye from traveling the world alone. Over the years, she traveled to Italy, Hawaii, Canada, Monaco, Holland, France, New Zealand, Switzerland, Germany, Australia, and England. Through her travels, she purchased a Swiss watch in Switzerland and an elaborate cuckoo clock in the Black Forest of Germany. In Australia, she rode a camel but ultimately decided her favorite place was Hawaii.
In 1980 Floye and Arley retired and decided to move to Arkansas, where they purchased a three-bedroom home on two acres of land, something they would not have been able to afford in California. The couple loved to garden, growing beans, tomatoes, beets, cucumbers, and corn. Floye would can their produce and make jams, but since they produced more than they needed, they shared their crops with the community. Every Sunday, Arley would take a load of fresh vegetables to the nearby campground to give out to people.
Throughout retirement, Floye and Arley were involved in Rock Hounding. They would travel the U.S. with a rock hound club in search of rocks that they would clean and polish to create beautiful pieces of jewelry.
After more than 50 years together, Arley passed away in 2013 and was buried with a full military funeral. Floye continued to stay active and lived alone after Arley’s death until she was 100 years old. Two and a half years ago, the day after her 100th birthday, Floye decided due to having macular degeneration and Parkinson’s disease, she would move back to California to live with her granddaughter, Cece. “I couldn’t have asked for a better landlady!” exclaimed Floye. But she does not let her illness stop her. Most days, you will find Floye doing her own laundry, and still cooking most of her meals. Her extensive gardening knowledge is now being passed on to her granddaughter. She also enjoys playing solitaire. Floye has a saying about life, “If you stop doing things, then you stop doing things.”
Floye has always lived life to the fullest; now, she is just doing it with the help of a walker. She has three grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. Her great-grandchildren, Maegan and Brittney, are both active in the United States Navy. While Floye enjoys the California weather, she misses her friends from Arkansas and her church family at Sugar Loaf Baptist. Her son James, Cece’s father, is living close by and can visit weekly.
Thanks to Veterans Care Coordination and the Pension with Aid & Attendance, Floye has enjoyed the companionship of her caregiver Lily from Boundless Care for over a year now. They enjoy their time together, especially while watching oldies like Perry Mason and Gunsmoke.
Veterans Care Coordination is proud to recognize Floye Utter for her support and sacrifice to our country. We are privileged to have the opportunity to share the stories of our nation’s heroes.