Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Elizabeth Maxine Chambers Cramsey, 44-W-3 May 11, 1961

Reposted from the National Archives


A WASP’s Story

Betty wanted more. Like more than 1,000 other women, she took to the skies to find it.
Betty and her comrades applied to an innovative civilian program designed to employ women to ferry wartime aircraft, serve as flight instructors, tow targets for live anti-aircraft practice, transport cargo, and fly experimental aircraft. These female pilots relieved men from domestic duties so they could fight overseas in the war.
The WASP program was created in August 1943 when two other formerly established programs were merged: Jacqueline Cochran’s Women’s Flying Training Detachment (WFTD) and Nancy Harkness Love’s Women’s Auxiliary Ferry Squadron (WAFS). The WASP program was directed by Jacqueline Cochran while Nancy Love became the Executive of the Ferry Division of the Air Transport Command.
Women who possessed a pilot’s license and were between the ages of 21 and 35 were welcome to apply. Aviatrixes across the United States fled from their desks and kitchens to climb into cockpits to serve their country.
After an interview process, the women were trained as rigorously as military pilots and were paid at a rate of $1,800 per year. Successful trainees were stationed at one of 120 air bases, paid $3,000 per year, and reclassified as civilian pilots.
Like the majority of her fellow pilots, Betty Chambers received her training at Avenger Field in Sweetwater, Texas. After training, Betty was sent to Turner Field in Albany, Georgia then attended the Army Air Force Tactical School in Orlando, Florida. She was later stationed at Greenwood Army Air Field in Greenwood, Mississippi.
As male pilots returned from wartime service, WASP members in service at the end of 1944 were forced to resign. Men wanted to fly domestically, and the country wanted women back at home to take care of their families. Betty Chambers was among the group of women whose service ended when the WASP program was disbanded.
This December 20 marks the 70th anniversary of the deactivation of the WASP program, a program so beloved by the women who served under it that many alumnae continued to fly and attend reunions.
On November 2, 1977, President Jimmy Carter signed Public Law 95-202, which granted military veteran status to all who served under the WASP program. In 2009, the highest medal awarded to civilians—the Congressional Gold Medal—was bestowed upon the Women Airforce Service Pilots.
The National Archives at St. Louis maintains the civilian WASP official personnel folders (OPFs). The administrative paperwork in these files reveals story after story of WASP adventures and history. OPFs are open to the public and photocopies of OPFs can be obtained for a fee. Please visit http://www.archives.gov/st-louis/archival-programs/civilian-personnel-archival/ for more information.

Respectfully reposted from THE NATIONAL ARCHIVES



Thursday, August 31, 2017

Lois Kay Gott Chaffey, 43-W-2 | August 21, 2017

Lois Kay Gott Chaffey ~ July 18, 1920 – August 21, 2017

The timing of Kay Chaffey’s goodbye was fitting. It was dark for a moment that Monday morning, August 21, as the sun was disappearing behind the moon for a total eclipse. Kay passed away in Oregon where she spent the final years of her life. The sun didn’t come back to shine on her that day. She’s gone, and will be greatly missed by so many in so many ways.
Born Lois Kay Gott in Nampa, Idaho, Kay lived her whole life in the Northwest. As a girl, she joined the Girl Scouts and excelled in sports, especially tennis. She also learned to fly airplanes in nearby Caldwell, long before she ever drove a car.
At age 18, Kay convinced her aunt to loan her $50 so she could pay her tuition at the College of Idaho. But sensing a war was coming she dropped out and entered the Civilian Pilot Training Program and got a flying license.
In 1942, when WWII came, Kay was selected as part of the second wave of a volunteer paramilitary organization known as Women’s Airforce Service Pilots or WASPs. She flew 17 different types of fighter planes from the P-51 Mustang (her favorite) to B-25 Mitchells, ferrying the planes throughout the United States until the fighting was done.
With the war over, she returned to the College of Idaho to complete her B. A., then received an M.A. from Univ. of Oregon in Eugene. In 1950, she became a physical education assistant professor at what was then Humboldt State College. She taught archery, tennis and badminton and her favorite, dance: modern dance, social dance and her extra favorite, international folk dance.
Somewhere along the way she met a local boy, the love of her life, Keith Chaffey. They married in 1963. He served as her dance partner when he wasn’t teaching local children, with a focus on Humboldt Country’s deaf community.
Keith and Kay loved traveling the world together, from climbing up to Machu Picchu, to seeing the bronze horses high in Venice’s St. Mark’s square, to watching moose graze near Mt. Denali in Alaska, along the way learning new dances or just exploring the wonders of nature.
In 1982, after 32 fulfilling years teaching, Kay retired. She then moved on to the next phase of her life, writing books. Her work there reflected her strong sense of history and her passionate drive to record the experiences of individuals and groups.
Her first book was Women in Pursuit: Flying Fighters for the Air Transport Command, published in 1993. Next came Hazel Ah Ying Lee, Women Airforce Service Pilot, World War II: A Portrait, published in 1996, telling the story of a Chinese-American WASP pilot, who died in a fiery plane crash.
Next she turned her collection of photos and scrapbooks detailing her teaching career into Celebrating Dance: Three Decades at Humboldt State, 1950-1982. When Kay was hired in 1950 to teach p.e., the department was small — just the dep. head, a coach, and Kay. It was a time when programs were being built and people had opportunities to be creative. In addition women’s sports, Kay was assigned to teach folk dance. Having no background in dance, she spent her Christmas vacation at a workshop at Mills College, wearing out five pairs of shoes. That was the first of many trips, here and abroad, to study dance and folk dance under master teachers.
Deeply aware of Humboldt’s isolation, she brought nationally recognized performers and teachers of modern and folk dance to give performances and workshops. She attended dance camps and brought back music and dances to teach and encouraged students to attend dance camps.
Kay believed that customs, costumes and cultures were intrinsic to the dances and included them in her teaching. Class parties had themes with appropriate costumes and food. Exhibition groups frequently made their own costumes. Kay collected textiles and pieces from folk costumes during her travels to assist them. They danced at schools, churches, the Swiss Club, the Runeberg Lodge, community events, etc. They made lasting relationships with the local ethnic groups whose dances they performed.
It should be noted, that for Kay, “international” was just that, no real borders, everything from African and South Seas Islands to Latin American and Native American dance in addition to Jewish and European dances.
Basically, Kay was an exuberant and energetic person who delighted in delving into new experiences, making connections with people and giving fully of her time and energy. Folk dancers did a joint performance with Bonnie Messenger’s Reader’s Theater. She took her modern dance classes to the beach where the dancers became models for Tom Knight’s photography classes.
Starting not long after she came to Humboldt, she established a May Day tradition of winding the Maypole that’s carried on ’til this day. When Keith died in 2000, she worked with friends to create Maypole kits for seven schools where he had taught, so the children could celebrate dance in remembrance of Keith. (At the time of her death, Kay had almost finished a book on the Maypole Dance, as well as an autobiography.)
Another chapter in her life became another book, Flying the ’64 Flood, published in 2009. For as long as she could, Kay kept up with her piloting skills. She maintained a commercial pilot’s license for years. In 1964, when Northern California was hard hit by a flood that completely cut off the Northcoast from the rest of the world, she was one of those who risked their lives flying relief missions.
After a long campaign, in 1979, the U.S. Air Force finally took the retroactive step of including all WASP pilots as official members of the U.S. Air Force, with veterans benefits. In 2010, she joined many of the surviving WASPs at the Capitol in Washington, D.C. where the U.S. Congress honored the women with the Congressional Gold Medal in tribute to their unsung heroism.
Kay was deeply involved with the North Coast Vintage Aircraft Society. Again, she had a strong sense of the importance of recording life experiences. Aware that many pilots in the aircraft society were aging and concerned that their experiences would be lost, she helped gather their oral histories on tape. In turn, Kay was interviewed in 1999 for the KEET-TV series, Living Biographies. In 2008, Kay was named to the North Coast Aviation Society’s Hall of Fame and additionally presented with a Certificate of Congressional Recognition.
Kay was an avid bird-watcher with a long life list and served as secretary of the Redwood Region Audubon Society. She was also an environmental activist who supported the Nature Conservancy and the work of the Northcoast Environmental Center. She was active in the battle to save the standing redwood groves in Northern California when they were being logged off in the early ‘60s. Remember, this was a time when that was not a popular stance for a teacher at Humboldt State. In short, she played a pivotal role in establishing Redwood National Park.
Kay and Keith never had children of their own. Despite this, a clipping she shared in Celebrating Dance notes that she was named the 1968 “Mother of the Year” at Humboldt State. Kay was like everyone’s mom, someone to lean on when a friend was needed.
Despite the fact that Humboldt was much of her life for more than a half century, in June of 2004 she left her home here to spend her waning days in Rogue Valley Manor, a retirement home in Medford. She didn’t ever want to be a burden to others and felt that the manor would take care of all her needs.
She is survived by nephews, Daniel and Brian Gott, a niece, P.K. Gott, and their spouses and family who tell us, “Kay was one-of-a-kind, and her rich laughter will be greatly missed by all who knew her.” Join them in honoring her memory on Saturday, Sept. 30, at 2 p.m. in the Sunrise Room at Rogue Valley Manor.
Kay Chaffey’s legacy in folk dance will be celebrated Friday, Oct. 6, at 8 p.m. at the Humboldt Folk Dancers’ monthly party at Redwood Raks, in the Arcata Creamery, 8th and L sts. Some favorite dances Kay taught will be featured with Chubritza playing along with a winding of Kay’s beloved Maypole with the Maypole Band and Oktoberfest dances by Hansel Und Gretel’s Pumpernickel Band. All are welcome.
A grand celebration for Kay Chaffey’s life is planned for Sunday, Nov. 5, from 2-5 p.m. at the Arcata Veterans Memorial Hall, 1425 J St. at the corner of 14th and J sts. All are invited to gather and share light potluck snacks and fond memories of Kay and her bright shining light.

Respectfully reposted-- Written by Kym Kemp  September 25, 2017

Monday, June 26, 2017

Mary Jean Barnes Sturdevant, 44-7 | June 24, 2017

Mary Jean (Barnes) Sturdevant passed away at the age of 95, on June 24, 2017 in Graham, WA. She was a 46 year resident of Spanaway, WA.  


Mary was born September 28, 1921 in Bend, Oregon. She lived quite an interesting and exciting life she was active in her community, serving her country, and devoted to her family.  

Mary was a Tacoma Lariette Drill Team and riding club member from 1968 until she could no longer ride, some 40 years total. She maintained an interest in the group,
 and the Tacoma Unit community arena until she passed. She also belonged to the Back Country Horsemen organization. Mary faithfully attended St. Mary's Episcopal Church of Lakewood for 40 years, until she could no longer drive. Church volunteers maintained contact with her, visiting her monthly.

Mary enjoyed acquiring her education and graduated as Valedictorian at Phoenix High school in 1939. While in school she earned the Golden Eaglet award through the Girl Scouts of America, their highest award and equivalent to that of Eagle Scout.

Mary discovered a love of flying as a young adult. In 1939, she was 1 of 3 women able to enter a civilian pilot program at Southern Oregon University. She earned her ground school certification and pilot's license there. One she graduated, she set up a ground-school program at Medford (Oregon) High School, instructing interested students there, with the Medford Flying Service furnishing the airplanes. Later, she did the same at Eastern Oregon College, La Grand for the War Training Service Program, under the auspices of the Army Air Corps. She then went to Washington State University (Pullman, WA) and was the chief instructor to cadets sent there preparing to be pilots, navigators and bombardiers. She applied to the WASP (Women Air Force Service Pilots) program (along with 25, 000 other women) and was eventually one of 1820 who were accepted into training. She could not leave WSU until they found an instructor to replace her, so her entry into the WASP program was delayed until February 1944.

Entering class 44-W-7, she trained at Sweetwater, Texas. Her class initially consisted of 90 women, all of whom had to have their pilot's licenses already and a base amount of flying experience. Still, only 45 of the 90 were ultimately able to graduate from the rigorous training regimen. She was then stationed at Merced (CA) Army Air Base, Base Operations, flying AT-6s and BT-13s and instructing male pilots who would be sent overseas to fight in WWII. While at Merced, she met Philip A. Sturdevant, where he was also a pilot and instructor. They eventually married, after the War. The WASP program was disbanded in December, 1944, at the end of the War.  The women, including Mary, were left to get home on their own after abrupt termination of the program.

Mary lived the life of an Air Force wife thereafter, moving as her husband's duty assignments required, raising 3 children and moving every few years. At each base she found ways to contribute. She was always active in the local Episcopal Church. She was a military hospital volunteer (known then as Gray Ladies). She was a PTA member, serving as President in several elementary schools her children attended. She was a Brownie and Girl Scout leader. 

In 1971, she enrolled in Clover Park Vocational Technical School and graduated as Legal Secretary. After a short stint working with an attorney in private practice, she was employed by Pierce County Court, from which she retired. Her interest in photography was piqued while at Clover Park, and she took up the hobby in her retirement. 

Mary traveled extensively and was most proud of her visit to Russia, where she met the "Night Witches," Russia's version of the WASP. She used her photography skills to document her may travels, and the friends she shared her trips with.  

Mary maintained life-long interests in horses and dogs. She bred, raised, trained and showed AKC registered german shepherds. She trained other people's dogs, bringing them to show level ratings. Over time she also had a collie, a poodle, a cocker spaniel, and several Border Collie mix dogs, whom she referred to as the Cannardly breed – you "Can Hardly" tell what they were! She was an indefatigable horsewoman who confidently rode Western style, and occasionally English , and was an active precision equestrian drill team member for 40 years, riding for at least 25 of those years. She belonged to the Back Country Horsemen riding group and rode on trail- rides well into her 70s, trailering and tacking her own horses plus hauling her own camping equipment. 

In March 2010, Mary was the honored recipient of the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest award given to civilians. In February of 2017, she was interviewed by a film crew working on the documentary "Fly Girls." Her daughter and granddaughter (both pilots) were interviewed at the same time, in order to include a perspective of women in aviation across several decades. A trailer for the film can be viewed at www.youtube.com/flygirlsseries 


Mary is survived by son Jack B. Sturdevant of Glouster, VA and daughters Jean E. Best of Renton, WA and Faith C. (Steve) Jeffrey of Lacey, WA, as well as 8 grandchildren and 9 great grandchildren.  


She was preceded in death by her father William D. Barnes, her mother Cornelia Drake (Wilson) Barnes, and her brother W. Donald Barnes.  

Donations may be made to the National WASP-WWII Museum 

National WASP WWII Museum
P. O. Box 456
Sweetwater, TX 79556


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respectfully reposted with minor edits for accuracy  from Weeks Funeral Home page
photo - Wings Across America

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Adeline Wolak Ellison, 43-W-6 | June 10, 2017

“I got checked out as pilot in the C-47 and co-piloted in the B-17, B-25 and got my instrument rating flying a B-24 from California to Florida.  My instructor told me that I flew better than 95 percent of the male pilots he checked out.”   Adeline Ellison, WASP1

WASP Adeline Wolak Ellison took her final flight on June 10, 2017. 

She was born September 26, 1919 in Chicago, Illinois to Polish parents Walter and Anna Wolak.  Addie's father was a civilian pilot and urged his young daughter to take flying lessons.  After only one lesson, she was hooked.  Shortly after earning her license, she and her father joined the Civil Air Patrol and Addie began cross country flying. 

When America joined the Allies in World War II,  Addie saw an ad in the paper seeking women pilots for a  experimental flying program. She applied, passed the tests, an army physical and a personal interview,  and was accepted into the Women Airforce Service Pilots training program.  

In the spring of 1943, Addie, along with 123 other young women pilots from across the country, paid her way to Sweetwater, Texas and arrived at Avenger Field as a member of training class 43-W-6.  Almost seven months later, on October 4, 1943,  Addie and 83 of her classmates graduated from the Army Air Forces flight training program and earned their silver WASP wings.   She later wrote that her mom and dad borrowed on their insurance to make the long train trip to Sweetwater, Texas for the ceremony.  

Following graduation, Addie’s Army orders sent her to Long Beach, California, to fly with the 6th Ferrying Group.  From Long Beach, she delivered aircraft such as the B-17, B-25, B24, and C-47 from factories to bases in the U.S.A.   

While at Long Beach, Addie met her future husband, Robert Ellison who was an Army Air Force pilot. They were married June 24th 1944 and since the WASP were being deactivated, she resigned to go with Robert to Colorado to begin their new life.

Congressional Gold Medal ceremony, 2010
After the war the young couple traveled around the country as their Air Force family grew to include daughter, Andrea and son, Bobby.   Eventually, they settled in San Carlos, Ca.

She joined the Air Force Reserves but was discharged when they found out she had children. In the 1970's the WASP were given Veteran status and in 2010 they were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, highest civilian honor that Congress can bestow. Addie attended the ceremony in D.C. with her family. It was one of the highlights of her life.

In 2012, a Cessna 172 named "ADELINE," was unveiled by owner Ralph Sauceda. It was a special honor given to Addie at the Commemorative Air Force, Modesto, California Airport.  

Addie loved life, family and friends. She was a homemaker, a secretary, opened a Latin Dance Studio and ran for City Clerk of San Carlos, Ca. But most of all she was a great wife, mother and grandmother. In 1983, Addie and Bob moved to Modesto to be close to their grandchildren.

For the next few years, the couple continued their love of adventure by traveling all over the world.  Robert passed away after their 57th year of marriage.  Addie is survived by her daughter Andrea Holmquist (Thom), granddaughters Alyssa Bienvenu (Rich) and Amanda Holmquist and great grandson Lucien Bienvenu. She was preceded in death by her son Bobby, and brother Ed Wolak.

Adeline Wolak Ellison will be interred at San Joaquin National Cemetery next to her husband. She requested this for their grave stone:"Two Hot Pilots Together at Last.”

Franklin & Downs Funeral Home is honored to be serving the Ellison Family. A Visitation will be held on Tuesday, June 20, 2017 from 12:00 – 3:00pm at Franklin & Downs Funeral Home, 1050 McHenry Ave. in Modesto. Burial will follow on June 28, 2017 at 2:00pm at San Joaquin Valley National Cemetery in Santa Nella, CA. A Celebration of Adeline's Life will be held on Thursday, June 29, 2017 at 11:30am at Franklin & Downs Funeral Home.

__________________

Respectfully posted by Wings Across America from the official obituary, with additional WASP information and  photo included.

Our prayers for Addie's family, her friends, and everyone who was touched by this gentle lady pilot.  

1. Quote from WASP Betty Turner's "Out of the Blue and Into History," p. 209.



Monday, February 6, 2017

Margaret E. 'Marge' Neyman Martin, 44-7 | January 29, 2017





"When I heard about the WASP program, I decided I wanted to learn to fly, which meant cashing in my bonds and taking leave from work." 
                          Marge Neyman Martin, 44-7 






Margaret E. “Marge” Martin, long-time resident of Oak Harbor, passed away January 29, 2017.  She was 95. 

Marge was born September 21, 1921, in Saratoga, WA. to George and Elva Neyman.   She graduated from Sequim High School at age 16 in 1938.  After graduating business college in Tacoma, Washington, she began working as a secretary for Standard Oil Company.  

Learning of the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) training program, she earned her private  pilot license in Spokane and applied to the program.  After passing the required tests and personal interview, Marge was accepted as a member of class 44-7, paying her way to Avenger Field in Sweetwater, Texas.  Of the 98 women who entered training with Marge, she was one of only 59 who graduated, September 8, 1944. 

She earned her silver WASP wings and received her Army orders, sending her to Douglas Army Air Field, Douglas, Arizona.  While at Douglas, WASP flew the BT-14, AT-8, UC-78, AT-9, AT-17 and B-25.  Marge's flying assignments included administrative, engineering and utility flights.

Following the deactivation of the WASP on December 20, 1944, Marge took a job in San Francisco where she met and married Paull Smyth.  They moved to Whidbey Island in 1951 where she later began her career at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island.   The young couple started a family, making their home in Oak Harbor and filling it with four children and beautiful memories.  Marge later wrote:   "Our home on the water has nine acres with geese, chickens, and peacocks.  The Cascade Range fills our window with views of Mt. Rainier and Mt. Baker, which are pure white in winter."

She worked at the Naval Air Station for 22 years, becoming secretary to the Commanding Officer before retiring.  

After Paull’s passing, Marge married C.J. “Tiny” Martin who predeceased her.  She is survived by her four children, Fred (Anita) Smyth, Oak Harbor; Gretchen Smyth, Seattle; Mitsi Vondrachek, Newberg, OR; and Paula (Dave) Bondo, Mill Creek, WA; as well as four grandchildren and two great grandchildren.  

In lieu of flowers please consider a donation to the Nature Conservancy or the Sierra Club.

_____

Respectfully posted with permission from her family.  Additional information included from Marge's entry p. 458, "Out of the Blue and Into History" by WASP Betty Turner.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Kathryn Lynn Boyd Miles, 44-5 | January 24, 2017



“I became interested in flying when my father dug deep for the cost of a flight in a small plane that landed outside of Whitesboro, Texas.”   Kathryn Miles, 44-5

    Katheryn Lynn Boyd Miles was born in Gunter Texas, 50 miles north of Dallas, on January 9, 1921.   Her parents, Elizabeth and Arthur Edgar Boyd, were pioneer educators,  instilling in their young daughter the qualities of honesty, Christianity and the love of adventure.  

    Lynn graduated from Decatur Baptist College in 1939.  Two years later, she earned her pilot’s license, completing the CPT (Civilian Pilot Training) program  in her senior year at North Texas Teachers college, skipping meals to save money for her flying time. 

    Her love of adventure took her to Washington DC to work for the FBI and then to Little Rock Arkansas as an air traffic controller and finally as a hostess for Braniff in Dallas.    When Lynn heard the call for women to train as military pilots under General Hap Arnold and Jacqueline Cochran, she was working as a CAA air traffic control operator.  As a Civil Aeronautics Authority employee, she was ineligible to apply for the WASP until she had been separated from the program for a year. 

    She worked a year and her dream finally came true.   She was interviewed for the Army Air Force flight training program, passed the tests and was accepted as a member of class 44-5.  After completing seven months of training at Avenger Field, Sweetwater, Texas, she graduated in June 1944.   Her Army orders sent her to Foster Field, Victoria Texas.  While stationed there, she flew the AT-6 four hours a day towing a sleeve target for gunnery practice.  She also served as an instrument instructor for refresher courses for instructors from other fields.  Other flying duties included instructing cadets from the Mexican, Cuban and Chinese Air Forces and flying the mail to Matagorda Island off the coast of Texas.   While at Foster Field, she checked out on the P-40 and flew as co-pilot in the B-18.  It was while she was ferrying aircraft out of Saxton, Missouri that she got the devastating news that her beloved WASP were being disbanded.

    After WASP deactivation, Lynn trained with the CAA as Aircraft Communicator at Boeing Field, Seattle and was then sent to Anchorage, Alaska.  While in Anchorage,  she met and married Kent Tillinghast, also a pilot for the Civilian Aeronautics Administration and bush pilot in his own right.   Three of their four children were born in Anchorage before they relocated to Eugene, OR where Lynn received her Masters of Education at the University of Oregon.

    Lynn became a teacher in the Bethel School District, teaching 4th grade, then junior high.  Eventually, Lynn became a counselor for the middle school and pioneered the reading program.  She established the local Civil Air Patrol for young cadets and forged her own Outdoor Program, leading high school students in canoeing, hiking and climbing adventures until her retirement.  In 1964, a year after losing her husband in a car accident, Lynn took her children to New Zealand, and taught school in Napier before returning to the US a year later. 

    In the 1970’s, Lynn was active in the movement to qualify WASPs as veterans.  She retired from teaching in 1983.  With her second husband Pat, Lynn trekked the outdoors and the local mountains, taking glacier training and wilderness survival classes. She canoed all over the United States and Canada and took her last canoe trip at the age of 75.   

   
    In March 2010, Lynn and her fellow WASP were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal for their pioneering service during World War II.  Lynn helped dedicate a WASP display at the Oregon Air And Space Museum at Mahlon Airport in Eugene, Oregon.  She also addressed classes at the University of Oregon for several years in a History of Aviation class.  

    Lynn's greatest love and pleasure was the joy of friends and family.  She is survived by her sons Kent and David and daughters Beth and Anne; seven grandchildren and six great grand children.  

    Kathryn Lynn Boyd Miles passed away on January 24, 2017.
________

Respectfully posted with permission.   Additional information taken from Lynn Miles own words as published in “Out of the Blue and Into History” by WASP Betty Turner.  

God bless all of those whose lives were forever changed by this pioneering WASP.  




Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Muriel Virginia Kiester Martin, 44-W-5 | November 4, 2016


"Love and family closeness and respect can never be outdone by anything else.  It's the lynchpin....holds everything together."   

           WASP Muriel Virginia Kiester Martin, 44-W-5

Early morning, on November 4, 2016, Muriel Kiester Martin made her final ascent. Imagine her soaring, happy, and free, looking down upon her beloved family. Born in La Feria, Texas on February 24, 1922, she was 94 years old, and had lived a full and purposeful life.

Her parents, Carl and Bertha Kiester, were among the early settlers of La Feria and pioneers in the citrus business. Muriel grew up with her older sister “Dee” and younger brother David.

Muriel was an enthusiastic equestrian and horse lover all her life. She explored the valley on her first horse, Morocco, and passed on her enthusiasm and skills to friends and family for as long as she was able. It was in pursuit of a riding school, that she introduced her family to San Miguel de Allende in the early sixties. Later, she even managed to enlist the Mexican cavalry, in Reynosa, to teach riding to her children and some of their friends.

For many years, Muriel ran and maintained the citrus groves her father had started. She was an accomplished nursery woman, and took pride in every single orange and grapefruit in her orchards. She always added a few sprigs of bougainvillea and fresh rosemary to each box of gift fruit that she would personally pack.

Muriel was not one to sit down and take it easy, and always had a project going. As a youngster, she carved delicate little 3 dimensional wooden horses. Later in life, she took up chip carving, a German style of pattern carving. Her family and many of her friends have intricately carved wooden chests that Muriel loving made for them. But her main project was the beautiful environment she created around her home. Though she enjoyed adventures to Mexico, Muriel was a homebody. That was her soul place. She was interested in every palm tree, hibiscus, rose bush and bougainvillea on the property. She kept the lake in front of the house clear and fresh. And she loved sharing it. For many years she ran a summer camp for young children- Camp Thunderbird. Kids had a blast learning to swim, ride, make all sorts of cool crafts, and participate in other camp activities. Camp Thunderbird was a source of great pride to Muriel, and many kids around the valley benefitted from her leadership and guidance.


Muriel was a patriot. When Pearl Harbor was attacked, she was compelled to respond. She learned about the newly created Women AirForce Service Pilots (WASP). The next year, while a junior at the University of Texas, she rode her bike out to the airport to take flying lessons so she could apply to enter WASP training. 

Muriel entered the Army Air Forces flight-training program at Avenger Field in Sweetwater in December 1943. She was one of 1,830 who were accepted into the program, out of 25,000 who applied. It was a grueling program. 1,074 earned their wings. After graduation, she was stationed at Eagle Pass Army Air Base, an advanced gunnery school, where she flew AT-6 tow target missions for ground and aerial gunnery practice, training aviation cadets for combat, until the WASP program was deactivated. In 2009, the WASPs were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal. Muriel accepted the award in Washington DC, surrounded by her proud family and lifelong friends.

While in the service, Muriel met Archie, an Army Air Force Flight Surgeon from Virginia. They married in 1944 and settled in La Feria, where they raised a family. They shared a love for flying, sailing and their four children. Archie pursued his career as a radiologist in Harlingen. They were devoted patents, engaged in providing every opportunity possible for their children.

Known as “Kies” by her grandchildren and great grandchildren, she was a fun, active, involved grandmother. She often impressed them with her ping-pong, riding, tennis, archery, and canoeing skills. And, of course, they all loved her famous pancakes, crackerjack and homemade chocolate sauce.

Muriel is survived by her four children: Anne, Bunnie, Ginny and Graham; her grandchildren, Martin, David, Charlotte, Archie, Carl, Beaman and Bella; and her great-grandchildren, Alston, Watson, Garrett and Tucker.

Muriel was a unique individual; very strong but equally gentle. Never did any of us doubt that she loved us with all her heart. And we loved her back. She enriched the lives of many people throughout her life.

We can't imagine a better mother, grandmother, woman, and role model.
RIP Muriel Kiester Martin.

A special appreciation is extended to her sister in law and friend, Judy Kiester, and her caregivers Graciela and Jose Castillo.

Memorial donations may be made to the La Feria Public Library (which Muriel helped establish)
400 South Main Street

La Feria, TX 78559

______________________

Posted as written from the family of Murial Martin. 
Quote from the Wings Across America interview.

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Personal note.

Wings Across America spent an unforgettable day with Murial on her beautiful oasis in the middle of south Texas, just about 10 miles from the border with Mexico.  Soft spoken, gentle, and filled with a quiet joy, she was delightful.  Ask her about her family, her horses, the ranch or flying, and the sparkle in her eyes would grow brighter and brighter.  I can still remember her kindness and her warm, easy laugh.  Lovely, remarkable lady.  Our prayers for her family and for all of those who were touched by this remarkable, fiercly loving spirit.   Our hearts are grateful for having known her.  God bless you all.


More on Murial -- Article on the Congressional Gold Medal