First CHamoru Woman US Naval Officer

Genevieve Ploke Snow

Genevieve Perez Ploke Snow (1941 – 2011) was born in Hågat, Guam on 15 March 1941. As an infant and toddler during World War II, she survived the Japanese occupation of Guam, raiding of her house, capture of her father (CPO John F. Ploke, Zentsuji POW), starvation, emaciation, dysentery, witnessed the torture and execution of some of her family and friends during the forced march to Manenggon, and the near execution of her grandfather, Antanacio Taitano Perez, as a suspected American spy.

But by the war’s end in 1944 she was blessed with complete amnesia of her childhood, though filled with nervous energy all her life from it, which is part of what kept her so active and restless.

When her father returned from the Zentsuji POW camp, Genevieve (known as “Snooky”) was drafted to sing and dance for the USO. Her little brother John (known as “Pinky”) also entertained with her at schools and on TV. Their performances gave much happiness to a people rebuilding in the war’s aftermath and to GIs missing their families back home. USO performers were brought to Guam at first but after a while a woman named Dixie Dot in the USO started recruiting Chamorros and others on Guam to entertain and called them Talents of Guam. Besides Snooky, Joaquin Arriola planned the piano, William Sablan played the guitar, Julie Duenas Camacho, Pauline Ploke Peterson and Irene Ploke Sgambelluri danced the hula. Diana Zeien Ysrael did acrobatics and Harriet Chandler and Madeleine Zeien Bordallo sang and danced. Josephina Guzman also sang, accompanied by Juan Blas, both of Barrigada.

Sgambelluri said they performed for about two years with their uncle Pedro Camacho serving as their manager. Duke Navarro also performed a sword dance along with musicians Victoria, Lorenzo and Joaquin Iriarte of Barrigada. They weren’t paid in money but rather with fresh fruit, sugar, soft drinks, liquor and canned goods. They performed on a wooden stage at Sumai (by then Naval Base Guam) for all the branches of the military and even performed on seven aircraft carriers that came to Guam.

Pinky sang Elvis Presley songs and other song popular songs at the time like “How much is that doggie in the window?”

Sgambelluri said that Snooky was the star of the show. She was so cute and sang so well and was so friendly, everyone loved her. They called her the Shirley Temple of Guam. Snooky and Pinky were celebrities on early Guam TV stations. This began a lifelong affinity Genevieve had for singing, dancing, music and being an entertainer.

In 1957, she was Guam’s Liberation Day Queen. She was a graduate of George Washington High in Guam and later Creighton University in Nebraska. Genevieve worked as an editor in Guam, assistant to the governor of Guam, was a reporter for the Modesto Bee and public relations director for St. Luke’s Hospital in Washington state.

She was commissioned in 1965 as Guam’s first woman US naval officer.

She separated from the Navy at the rank of lieutenant in order to care for her young son and become a military wife since her husband was busy leading combat missions over Vietnam and flying recon into Soviet airspace with Strategic Air Command. There, Genevieve was active in support of military wives and returning POW events.

In the Navy, Genevieve served as a personnel officer, public relations officer and supported the operations of NAS Glenview, NAS Alameda and also the Blue Angels.

She later worked for 10 years with Kaiser Hospital before retiring to Lake County, Calif. as a substitute school teacher. Active to the end and despite cardiac double bypass surgery in 2008, Snow is remembered by friends as a sweet lady who was much the gadabout, adventurer, always on the move, highly energetic, filled with loads of fun and laughs. She was a the social butterfly and hula dancer performing for Lake County’s Vietnam Veterans, VFW, MOAA, Clear Lake Performing Arts and other groups.

Snow died 22 April 2011, at the age of 70 years old.

Editor’s note: This biography was originally written in 2014 for a series on the first women of Guam, women who did things first in their fields, as commissioned by the Guam Women’s Chamber of Commerce.