Sunday, February 9, 2014

Florene Miller Watson, WAFS | February 4, 2014

During the years, I have been asked to give many, many WAFS- WASP WWII presentations ... been inducted into several prestigious "Hall of Fame" type honors an been featured in newspapers, books and magazine articles - but the bottom line for me is - "What does my Lord think of me!"  Florene Miller Watson, WAFS
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Florene Miller Watson was born on December 7, l920 in San Angelo, Texas to Thomas L. and Flora Theis Miller. Her father was a watchmaker and owner of a jewelry store chain in the Odessa, Texas area. Florene became fascinated with planes when at the age of 8 she took her first airplane ride in a WWI Barnstormer’s open-cockpit plane at Big Lake. “My father and I shared our exhilaration for airplanes.” When she was a college sophomore, her father purchased a Luscombe airplane so his family could learn to fly. He anticipated the United States going to war with Germany and wanted his eldest children to contribute to the war effort as aviators. 

By age 19, Florene had finished flight school and completed her first solo flight. During the next 2 years, Florene obtained her commercial license, trained in aerobatics, and earned ground-school and flight instructor ratings. She was teaching civilian men enrolled in the government-sponsored War Training Program to fly in Odessa, Texas when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on her 21st birthday. Soon afterward she and her younger brother volunteered for service in the Army Air Corps. 

Florene was one of only 28 women who qualified for the original Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron (WAFS), later known as the Women Air Force Service Pilots (WASP). In January, 1943, Florene became Commanding Officer of the WASP stationed at Love Field, Dallas. In l944, she served as a test pilot in a highly secretive program to develop radar equipment for planes. By the time the war was over, Florene had flown every type of training, cargo, fighter, and twin and four-engine bomber that the Air Corps used including: Aeronea, Waco, Taylorcraft, Piper Cub, BT-13, PT-17, PT-19, AT-6, AT-9, AT-10, AT-11, AT-17, A-20, A-26, P-38, P-39, P-40, P-47, P-51, SB2C, C-47(DC-3), B-17, B-24, B-25, Lockheed P-38F Lightning and her favorite, the North American P-51D Mustang.

After the war, Florene married Chris Watson, her former flight-training student who was a Phillips Petroleum engineer. They raised two daughters while being frequently relocated by Phillips. Florene returned to college earning a BA at Lamar Tech University and a MBA at the University of Houston and then taught college for 30 years at the University of Houston, Howard College in Big Spring and Frank Phillips College in Borger. Florene was a member of Faith Covenant Church, belonged to many community organizations and did much volunteer work. She was also a National Flower judge, a swimming instructor, a real estate and insurance salesperson, a mutual fund representative and a test cook for Betty Crocker. 

Florene maintained close ties to aviation with memberships in the Texas Aviation Historical Society, the Ninety-Nines, the Air Force Association, the Commemorative Air Force, the Women’s Military Aviators and the Women’s Air Force Service Pilots WWII and others. She was featured in numerous newspapers, magazines and books with photos and write-ups and frequently interviewed for television programs plus video and audio histories for university archives and aviation museums. She was also featured in the nationally-broadcasted TV documentary Women of Courage explaining the role of WASP in WWII. Florene also served as national WASP chaplain for many years.

Some of her most cherished honors include the Distinguished Flying Corps Membership in the Kritser Aviation and Space Museum, Amarillo, TX, 1988; induction into theNinety-Nines International Forest of Friendship, Atichison, Kansas (Amelia Earhart’s home) for exceptional contributions to aviation, 1995; first woman inductee into the Panhandle Veterans Hall of Fame, August, 1996; “Distinguished Veteran” honoree at the Air Force Military Ball in Dallas, TX, 1997; the Daughters of the American Revolution’s highest honor--their National Medal of Honor, 2002; designation as an Eagle 4 separate times at the Air Force’s annual Gathering of Eagles celebration; the National Air Force Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award, 2004; induction into the Texas Aviation Hall of Fame, 2004; the renaming of the airport in her hometown of Big Lake, TX the Florene Miller Watson Airport, 2003; and most importantly in 2010 the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest award Congress can present to a civilian.

Florene was preceded in death by her husband of 68 years, G. Christie Watson, and two brothers, LaMonte Miller and Dolph Miller. She is survived by two daughters, Gail Smith and husband, Gerald of Silverton, TX and Jean Roark and husband, Lee of Woodway, TX; four grandchildren: Greg Sutphen of Houston, TX, Shelly Sutphen Garcia of Katy, TX, Chris Whittington of Englewood, CO and Clay Whittington of Denver, CO; two great grandchildren: Axton Whittington and Blake Garcia; and one sister, Garnette Erwin of Richardson, TX.

Florene lived her life cheerfully giving to others and always believing the best in everyone she met. She lived Mark 12:30, 31 . . . ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ . . .: 

Florene Miller Watson, 93, of Borger, Texas, died February 4, 2014. Celebration of Life services will be at 10:30 am Monday, February 10, 2014 at Faith Covenant Church in Borger with Pastor Les Sharp officiating and under the direction of Minton Chatwell Funeral Directors of Borger. The family will receive guests Sunday, February 9, 2014 from 5-7pm at the funeral home.
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resource: Amarillo Globe News 
*Opening quote respectfully added from "Out of the Blue and Into History " by WASP Betty Turner  
                    ____________________
The following added by  Wings Across America
Florene Watson was a truly iconic, one-of-a-kind WASP.  She had a brilliant smile and a magnetic personality.  She was equally at home when sharing her faith, offering a prayer, or sharing her fabulous stories of flying.  I've never met another person who could draw a crowd quicker than Florene, and she did it with such grace and humility.
In Sept. of 2000, we interviewed Florene as part of our Wings Across America project.   Our first meeting with her was at KACV PBS television studio on the Amarillo College campus in Amarillo, Texas.  She was radiant and ready.  Six and a half hours later, the TV studio manager gave her the keys to the studio and told her to lock up when we were finished.  Every hour was a delight, and by the time we were walking out the door, we knew we had made a life-long friend.  (She and mom kept talking all the way to the car.)
Over the next few years, we invited Florene to join us in our booth at several air shows.  She was always radiant as she patiently shook hands with the  crowds, signed  autographs and shared her stories.  
In 2003, we invited her to a black-tie affair at the Texas Museum of History in Austin, Texas,  commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Wright Brothers' flight.  I told her we would like her to help us 'draw a crowd,' so that we could share our vision for the National WASP WWII Museum we were creating at Avenger Field in Sweetwater.   She flew into Austin, hair beautifully coiffed, makeup perfect, and ready to go!  It was a wonderful evening.  With Florene's help, we drew quite a crowd.   
One of the most outstanding things I remember about Florene is that she  was at home wherever she was and made everyone around her feel welcome.  She visited us at our offices at Baylor, always proud of being a 'former Baylor student'.   She joked that if she hadn't been in love with flying, she would have graduated from Baylor.  Her father 'tempted' her to return home by offering to buy her an airplane, so she left Baylor after her sophomore year.  I'm proud we had that Baylor connection.  
When I produced "Soundbytes of the WASP" a few years ago, I took clips from many of the interviews we had done and edited them into a short video.   In looking through Florene's interview, there were many wonderful things to choose from, but I chose one that had her stamp of approval.  I share it now, hoping that Florene's voice of encouragement will echo in each of us:
"Do not undervalue your abilities. You have abilities that you haven't had a chance to use.  Now, find something you want to use them on and get after it!"
                  Respectfully written and posted by Nancy Parrish 

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Mary Alice Putnam Vandventer, 44-W-7 Jan. 28, 2014

"I thought they were crazy!  I thought I'd never learn all of this.  Going from a PT-17 Stearman that had no instruments and no starter or gears or anything to the AT-6-- it was just mind boggling.  I thought, "What are they doing!"  I LOVED THE AT-6!"  WASP Mary Alice Putnam, 44-W-7

WASP and Congressional Gold Medal recipient, Mary Alice Putnam Vandeventer, took final flight to a celestial destination, Tuesday, January 28, 2014; she was 90. 

Mary Alice was born a redhead in a West Texas sandstorm to Thomas Rogers and
Eunice (Smart) Putnam in their Lueders home on March 18, 1923. Reared in Lueders, the banker’s daughter daydreamed of movie stardom in news reels and flying machines like Amelia Earhart. Childhood summers at the
Putnam Ranch in Throckmorton County and at Eagle Nest, New Mexico, kindled her love of nature and travel.   In high school she played basketball, the trombone, jitter-bugged at Buttermilk Tavern in Anson, and took flying lessons from a crop duster at Stamford, TX. 

Graduating from Lueders High School in 1940, Mary attended SMU and 'earned her wings'  in college at a Love Field flight school in Dallas. She graduated from Texas State College for Women in Denton (now TWU), with BA in Speech and Theater—and high hopes of Broadway or the silver screen.

During WWII a Life Magazine cover story about the Women Airforce Service Pilots training at Sweetwater sent Tom Putnam and his daughter to Avenger Field to interview with Jacqueline Cochran, famed pilot and WASP Director.  Cochran waved the 21 age restriction for Mary, one month short, and Mary joined the class of 44-W-7. 

Nicknamed “Put-Put”, she was one of 1830 accepted from the 25,000 women applicants between 1943 and 1944, and only 1074 to complete the rigorous training to become the
first women to fly US military aircraft. Mary flew Stearman, AT6, PT19, UC-78 and C-45. 

After graduation, Mary was stationed at Eagle Pass Army Air Field and Moore Field on the Texas-Mexico Border, where she ferried planes and towed gunnery targets, until December 20, 1944, when WASP were disbanded by a thank you letter from General Hap Arnold, U.S. Army Air Force.  WASP  hitch-hiked and paid their own way home. Their records were sealed and unavailable to historians until the Freedom of Information Act Amendments of 1996. By then half the fly-girls were deceased.   WASP received  military status by Congressional Act in 1977 and a Congressional Gold Medal on March 10, 2010 in Washington DC.

After the war ended, Mary traveled across California with sister Maurese Vinson
and taught briefly at Lueders before acceptance to The American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City in the spring of  1946. Off to the Big Apple during the hey-day of Broadway Musicals–South Pacific, Guys & Dolls, and George Gershwin’s Porgy &
Bess.   She returned to Texas and joined American Airlines in Dallas 1948-52.  No, not as a pilot. Women were still prohibited from piloting commercial aircraft. Disappointed, Mary declined being a “a glorified waitress on a flying’ bus” and was a reservationist rooming with two “stews” in Dallas.

In 1951 she married Bob Vandeventer of WBAP radio in Dallas. An ABC Radio newsman during the war with Paul Harvey in St. Louis, Bob became News Director for WFAA-TV, the first television in Dallas. They had two daughters, Teresa and Sheri.

In 1965 Mary returned to Lueders with her tween girls and updated teaching credentials at Abilene colleges. She taught 6th through 8th grade English and History, coached Jr. High Basketball, and settled on 5th Grade, before she taught High School Drama for UIL Competition. Her theater students went to State one year. In 1979 she was recognized as
the Memorable Teacher and retired in 1983 to serve on school board several years. 

Mary reconnected with fly-girl pals at WASP Reunions and global tours—she explored Africa and traveled five continents—and told the WASP story as an advisory board member of the National WWII WASP Museum at Sweetwater. She served as “the local WASP.”

Mary, Veteran's Day, 2009
In 2010 the City of Lueders changed her address to Vandeventer Street in honor of her Congressional Medal.  Locally, Mary was Secretary of the American Legion Post in Lueders for many years, and was a lifetime member of the National WASP WWII Museum in Sweetwater.   She was active in her church, Methodist Northwest Council, and lived independently in the home where she was born until November 2013. She deeply loved numerous cats and one dog that didn’t “talk back”.

She is survived and missed by many: daughters Teresa Dominy of Potosi TX, and Sheri Vandeventer (husband Dave Seltenrich) of Valley Center, CA; grand-daughters Joni Dominy McKinnon (Rich McKinnon), Julia Mills Watkins (David Watkins); five great grandchildren Kaitlyn Bone, Kyler Bone, Corbyn Mills, Alora Mills, and Keelan McKinnon, two nieces and two nephews and numerous Putnam cousins from Albany and across the state. 

Services were held Saturday, February 1st, in the Lueders Methodist Church in Lueders, TX (visitation 10 – 11 am; funeral service 11 am), followed by graveside services and military honor guard at Throckmorton Cemetery at 2:00 pm under the direction of Tankersley Funeral Home of Stamford.  Pall bearers were Sam Vinson, Jerry Shiever, Dave Seltenrich, Sandy Davis, John Putnam and Robert Putnam.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the National WASP WWII Museum, 210 Avenger Field Rd, PO Box 456, Sweetwater, TX 79556 or online at waspmuseum.org.


Written by Publicist and Daughter of WASP, Mary Putnam Vandeventer,
Teresa V. Dominy

No rights reserved.

photos/links/quote respectfully added by Wings Across America

___________________
Note:

I first met Mary in September, 2000, when she graciously welcomed us into her home in Lueders, Texas.   We were so honored to record her story in the home where she was born.  100 percent Texas lady with gentle, low voice and an easy laugh.  Her journey from a small West Texas town to become a WASP and eventually study at the National Academy of Dramatic Art was inspiring.    

I can only imagine how blessed the young students in Lueders were, when she returned to her hometown and shared her world of experiences with them.  

God bless her beautiful family.  


Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Eleanor Thompson Wortz, 43-4 | Aug. 18, 2013

“Listening to my father describe a flight he took with a barnstormer at a county fair doing the “loop the loop” made me determined to fly some day.”            
              WASP Eleanor Thompson Wortz


Eleanor Thompson was born on June 5, 1921 in the small North Carolina town of Salisbury, 50 miles southwest of Greensboro.  From her earliest recollection of her dad sharing exciting stories of flying with a barnstormer,  Eleanor was determined to learn to fly.

After graduating from Spencer High School, she attended from Catawba College in Salsbury where she became Chief Cheerleader, was a member of the Writer’s Club and Editor of the College Annual.    While in college, she was able to take advantage of the Civilian Pilot Training offered to students, as the only girl in a class of ten, finally fullfilling her childhood dream to learn to fly.   She graduated with a BS in Business Administration, a Teacher’s Certificate and a Private Pilot License.  

After graduation, Eleanor worked as a clerk-typist for the Civil Aeronautics Administration in Washington, DC.  While at the CAA, she received a telegram from Jacqueline Cochran, inviting her to apply for the new military flying raining program for women pilots.  She applied and was accepted into class 43-W-4.

Eleanor paid her way to Sweetwater, Texas.   On Valentine’s Day, 1943, she and one hundred fifty other hopeful young female pilots, reported for training at Avenger Field.  After just five months of training, Eleanor and one hundred and eleven classmates graduated and earned their silver WASP wings. It was the largest WASP graduating class in history.

After graduation, Eleanor was sent to the 5th Ferrying Group at Love Field, Dallas, Texas.  While at Love Field, she qualified as a first pilot for Class III aircraft, which included the larger twin engine C-47’s.  After a year at Love Field, she was transferred to Victorville Army Air Base in Victorville, California,  where she flew AT-11’s as an engineering test pilot. 

After the WASP were deactivated,   Eleanor flew war surplus aircraft to new owners. She then accepted a job  as Asst. to the Registrar at Stanford University.  Shortly afterwards, she was given the opportunity to travel and took a job teaching ‘Theory Of Flight’  and ‘Math’ at Escola Technica de Aviacao in Sao Paulo, Brazil,  and English at the State Department School. In 1946, after a courtship that started in a Portugese language class jn Coral Gables, Florida,  she married James Howard Wortz, a fellow instructor.   

The young couple returned to the States and settled in California,  where they built a home.  Their family grew to include two sons: Marc Steven and William Howard.  

Eleanor ran the training division at Moffett Field, California for six years and earned her MA from San Jose State University.  She taught business at Canada College, Redwood, California until she retired at age sixty-two. 

Following her husband’s death in 1990, Eleanor organized the Woodland Vista Swim and Racquet Club in Los Altos and served as the first president.  

Eleanor travelled  to Europe, the Middle East, Asia, Africa, Australia and South America.  She was a long-time member of the Los Altos United Methodist Church.   

In 2010, Eleanor and her sister WASP were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian honor Congress can bestow.  Less than a year later, her memoir,  “Fly Gals of World War II”,  was published.

Eleanor died peacefully at her home in Los Altos, California on August 18, 2013 at the age of ninety two. 

From her official obituary:
“She will be dearly missed by her loving sons, Marc Steven Wortz of Santa Cruz and William Howard Wortz of Los Gatos, and their wives, Cathy and Fujko, as well as brother Julian Thompsoin of Potomac Falls, Virginia, sister Jean Thompson Barrick of Los Gatos, and many nieces, nephews, and friends.”

God bless the family of this extraordinary WASP and all of those around the world, whose lives she touched.

Respectfully written and posted by Nancy Parrish

sources:
“Out of the Blue and Into History” by WASP Betty Turner   p. 85
Official obituary --Legacy.com


Final Flight Page

Monday, September 23, 2013

Dorothy "Dot" Swain Lewis, 44-W-5 | Sept. 9, 2013


Dorothy "Dot" Swain  Lewis passed away on September 9th at the mountain home she built in  Fern Valley, Idyllwild, Califonia, twenty one days before her 98th birthday.   

Born just outside of Asheville, North Carolina to the respected lawyer John Edward Swain, and his concert pianist wife, Mozelle Stringfield Swain, she was one of 4 children, ---  her brother Robert S. Swain who served as District Attorney for Buncombe County, and as a Senator in the North Carolina Senate, her brother Jack Swain who as an engineer, helped  develop radar during WWII, and  is survived by her sister, Betty Turbyfill of Asheville, North Carolina, as well as her only son, Albert Z Lewis Jr. of Arlington, Virginia, grandchildren Yani and Kieren Johanson, and Jennifer Budde, and many cousins, nieces, nephews and their children, located from North Carolina to Alaska to New Zealand.

Her passion was as an artist and teacher, having studied at the New York Art Students League in New York during the 30's after graduating from Randolph Macon College for Women in 1936, and subsequently, receiving her Masters of Fine Art from Scripps College in the 50s.  

Specially chosen and trained  in 1942 as one of 10 women in a special class  established by legendary pilot Phoebe Omlie, in the runup to WWII, to prove that women could become flight instructors, she trained 4 classes of Navy pilots in the V-5 program, subsequently transferred to instruct trainees in the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) program, then joined and served as a WASP, flying various fighters and bombers, including the P-63, B-26, P-40 for engineering, maintenance and training missions.  Though promised militarization, the WASP were disbanded in December 1944, and did not receive veteran status until  1977.  

After the war, Dot worked as chief flight instructor at the Daytona Beach airport and participated in a number of air shows such as the 1st All Women's Airshow in Tampa Florida where she performed dangerous aerobatics in a J-3 Cub, remaining an Air Force reservist until honorably discharged in 1957.  

She married Florida resident Albert Z Lewis, then, after separating, moved west where she taught for many years at the Orme Ranch School, a college preparatory high school located on a working cattle ranch near Mayer, Arizona, teaching science and history courses, horsemanship and flying, as well as art and art history, while establishing the highly successful Fine Arts Festival, now in its 45th year, bringing many fine professional artists together with high school students in a unique learning experience.

As an artist, she produced paintings, drawings, lithographs, etchings, other print-making, ceramics,
sculpture, and bronze castings, including the official portrait of US Attorney General Janet Reno, and a series of bronze-cast statues including "the WASP Trainee", dedicated on a number of memorial sites, including the US Air Force Academy Honor Court, High Ground, Neilsville, WI, the National WASP Museum in Sweetwater, TX, and College Park Aviation Museum, College Park, MD.  Her paintings and drawings reflected her study and interest in mountains and rocks, horses, trees and people which filled her life, some of which are displayed on a website: www.dotlewis.com, and her biography and art presented in a book by Ann Cooper, How High She Flies, published in 1999.

In 2010, she received the Congressional Gold Medal, the nation's highest civilian award, in a special ceremony in Washington DC, as a member of the WASP in commemoration of their ground-breaking service and achievements in World War II.  In addition she has received numerous other awards, including RMCW Distinguished Alumae Award, Women in Aviation International's Pioneers of Aviation, and a special Red Cross Award signed by FDR for, as a camp counselor, resuscitating and saving the life of a young girl struck by lightning many years ago.

A memorial service was held on September 14, 2013 at her home, attended by close friends, though her internment as a veteran is expected at one of the National Cemeteries, perhaps Arlington, VA, at which time another memorial service will be held.  In lieu of flowers, the family asks that a tree be planted in some special spot as Dot did every Christmas, or a Rose be given in her name, as a donation to the project to build a Tournament of Roses float to Honor the WASP in next year's parade:  www.WaspFloat.com.   

Her students, collegues and friends remember Dot for her unique ability as an artist to see and encourage the beauty in each person that she met.  That special beauty lives on in her artwork, her home, and in the hearts of her many friends amd relatives.
_________________

Written by Alfred Z. (Chig) Lewis, Jr.
Posted with permission.
________________
Note:
Respectfully, I would add one paragraph, as quoted from Dot:  p. 81, "How High She Flies" by Ann Cooper
Dot surrounded by her beautiful statues.
Works in progress.
Photo by N. Parrish, 2003
“To fly military airplanes was too great an opportunity and we were surrounded by a climate of intense patriotism: that alone was contagious and exciting.    As an instructor...(I was) determined to keep my hand at my art.  I did some portraits and kept at the cartoons and caricatures, too... I liked to have music around.   I liked to pick up my guitar or sit down at the piano whenever the poor light stopped my painting.
Painting and music have rhythm and so does flying.
The three go hand-in-hand.”
 
           Dot Lewis

         
Dot Lewis marched to that special rhythm for almost one hundred years, and her gentle spirit and her enthusiasm for life were indeed contagious.  May her kindness and compassion, her easy laugh and soft strumming be a lesson for us all.  
One final picture, taken when we visited Dot and Chig on her mountaintop in 2003.  What a glorious place it is.  This is Dot Lewis, the artist, in a storage room just off her studio, surrounded by the work of her hands, which now lives on across America.
Our prayers for Chig and the family and for all of those whose lives she touched.  Beautiful, sweet soul, fly ever higher.
v/r
Nancy Parrish

more



Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Lillian "Jay" Glezen Wray, 44-W-9 August 4, 2013

WASP Lillian Glezen, 1944

During her first year at Texas Tech, Lillian Glezen made a bet with one of her sisters that, if she earned a “B” in math, she would get to ride in a small plane.  From that first airplane ride, she knew that she wanted to learn to fly. 

Lillian Glezen Wray, affectionately known  as “Jay” as well as “Nanny  Duke” and “Grandma Turtle,” was born in Gilmer, Texas on Dec. 9, 1913 to Thomas Hamilton and Lillian Corn Glezen. The young couple had recently moved their growing family from Indiana to Texas.    Lillian was not only the youngest of eleven children, she was the only “native Texan” and a true tomboy.
Lillian attended Gilmer public schools, where she became an excellent tennis player.  Following her high school graduation, she attended East Texas State Teachers College in Commerce, Texas (now Texas A&M Commerce) and Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas. 
When America was attacked at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, Lillian was working as a switchboard operator at the Southwest Phone Company in Waco, Texas.  After Pearl Harbor, she soon moved to Fort Worth and took a job at Consolidated Aircraft, working as an inspector on the B-24 assembly line.   She  used part of her pay to take flying lessons.  When she had acquired the number of newly reduced minimum required flying hours (35), she applied for WASP training and was accepted into class 44-W-9.
In April of 1944, Lillian and 106 other young women pilots arrived in Sweetwater, Texas and reported to Avenger Field for WASP training. After seven months of AAF flying training, in November, 1944, Lillian and fifty-four of her classmates graduated,  received their silver WASP wings, and became Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP,  the first women in history to fly America’s military aircraft).        
She was then stationed at Goodfellow Army Air Base in San Angelo, Texas, where she flew AT-6s and BT-13s, training male cadets.  She also occasionally ferried PT-19s to other air bases.
On 20 December 1944, the WASP were disbanded and Lillian returned to Fort Worth.  She soon accepted a job with the CAA (now the FAA) in Alburquerque, New Mexico.   After several years and transfers, she accepted a job in Region II in  Salt Lake City, Utah as an air traffic controller.   It was there, in 1947,  that she met her future husband, Johnston Wray, who was also an air traffic controller.   
Lillian and Johnston married, started their family, and eventually settled in Burbank, California.  The couple successfully raised three sons: John, Gordon, and Dan,  and were also the proud grandparent of six grandchildren: Jaisha, Karleen, Cody, Morgan, Danny Jr. and Gordon.
Over the years, Lillian stayed close to her WASP friends attending countless WASP reunions all over the country.  She enjoyed a life-long sense of adventure and was always proud of the progress the WASP made for women’s equality.  She also kept up with her home town news. She subscribed to The Gilmer Mirror, the local newspaper, which she read twice a week.
WASP Lillian Glezen Wray,  family and USAF escort, March 10, 2010
In March, 2010, Lillian, together with her entire family, gathered with other WASP  and their  families  in the US Capitol in Washington, D.C. to receive the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest honour that Congress can award.
On August 4, 2013, just four months shy of her 100th birthday, Lillian died of natural causes at her Burbank home. 
Her loving family well remembers this pioneering pilot for  “her wry sense of humour  and her love of Angels’ baseball,” which kept the family smiling through the years.   Lillian was proud of her independence, and lived alone up until the last month of her life,  with the companionship of her beloved beagle (Duke) and her dedicated cat (Tiger Sue).   
Lillian Glezen Wray will be missed and she will be well remembered.  She was an inspiration to all who knew her. 
_____________________________________
Personal note:  Although I never had the honor of meeting Lillian in person, we emailed back and forth over the years.   When I sent out the first information to all the WASP concerning the Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony, Lillian was thrilled and replied right away, saying that she would be coming to Washington, DC with fourteen family members.   What a wonderful celebration that must have been!
WASP Lillian Glezen Wray, March 10, 2010
Six months later, Lillian emailed that she really didn’t do much traveling anymore, but that she knew she would be making one final trip to Gilmer, Texas.    She requested a military funeral and that her final resting place be next to her mother.  
In late September, her family will be honoring her request and taking Lillian home to the small East Texas town she had always called home.
As her family recently said,  "Lillian will be looking down at us from the heavens that beckoned her as a young  woman to become a pilot. She will live always in the hearts and lives of her family and all those she has touched."

God bless her family and all of those who will continue to be inspired by this pioneering lady pilot.
Respectfully posted
Nancy Parrish

 Sources:
“Class 44-W-9” compiled and edited by WASP Betty Stagg Turner  copyright 1997.  p. 167.
“Out of the Blue and Into History” by WASP Betty Stagg Turner  2001 Aviatrix Publishing. p. 513.
Photos added by Wings Across America and Lillian’s family



Friday, August 30, 2013

Julia E. Ledbetter, 43-W-5 | August 6, 2013

“When I was three, my parents took me to a small local field where I had my first hop; from then on I wanted to fly.”  WASP Julie Ledbetter, 43-W-5

Pilot, patriot,  World War II WASP, and career Army officer,  Lt. Col. Julia E. Ledbetter was born on December 20, 1921 in Anderson, South Carolina, halfway between Atlanta, Georgia and Charlotte, North Carolina.  She was the only daughter of Louie R. and Laura H. Ledbetter.  

After attending Winthrop College in Rock Hill, South Carolina, she went on to receive a degree in Journalism from the University of South Carolina in Columbia, in 1942.   By the time she graduated, Julie had begun flying and continued adding hours to her log book.

After America was thrust into World War II, Julie heard about the military flying training program for women pilots and signed up to be interviewed.  After passing the required tests, she was accepted into the class of 43-W-5.  Julie and 123 other young women pilots paid their way to Sweetwater, Texas, and reported for training at Avenger Field.  After successfully completing the training program, she graduated, along with eighty-four classmates, on 11 September, 1943, and became a WASP. 

Julie’s first assignment was to the 3rd Ferry Group out of Romulus, Army Air Base near Detroit, Michigan.  Just three weeks later, she received orders to Lockbourne Army Air Base in Columbus, Ohio, as part of the test group of seventeen WASP to receive four-engine training in the B-17 “Flying Fortress.”  She successfully completed the program, along with eleven of her sister WASP, and began what she later called, “a life long love affair with the B-17.”

Her next assignment was Buckingham Army Air Force Base Flexible Gunnery School in Fort Myers, Florida, where she flew student gunnery crews in B-17’s as they received their air-to-air gunnery training.  In August 1944, the school changed to B-24’s and Julie was assigned to Roswell Army Air Base, New Mexico, which was a B-17 transition school.  For the last three months of her service, she flew B-17 maintenance test flights, making sure the red-lined planes were safe for the cadets and instructors to fly.

On December 20, 1944, the WASP were deactivated, Julie paid her way back home to Anderson, South Carolina, but, eventually, migrated north. She instructed and operated a GI flight school in Batavia, New York and later accepted a similar job in Moorestown, New Jersey.  Her flying credentials at that time were: commercial, instrument, instructor, flight examiner, S&MEL and navigation and meteorology ground instructor.  

Three years after the WASP were disbanded, Julie made a life changing decision.  "I wanted a more structured career, so in October 1948, I enlisted in the Army."     She completed basic training and six months of OCS, becoming an officer.  As she later wrote, "I spent the next twenty-six years as a Regular Army Officer, and never regretted it."  


Over the next few years, Julie completed the Defense Information School, the Adjutant General's Career Course, Recruiting School, and the Command and General Staff College.  
During her Army career, Julie's assignments included Company Commander and Recruiting Officer as well as public relations and public information related assignments, taking advantage of her degree in Journalism.


She spent "a memorable three years" in Salzburg, Austria with the Public Informaiton Division, Hqs., US Forces, Austria.  Julie served, along with occupation forces from Britan, France and Russia, and press correspondents from the different countries filing their news from her office.  

One of her most memorable assignments was as Project Officer for the Women's Army Corps Recruiting Publicity, serving as the WAC Account Executive with Madison Avenue ad agencies.  Following this assignment, she served a four-year tour at Ft. Ord, California as Adjutant General, Combat Developments Command Experimentation Command.   

In 1955, Julie was appointed to the Department of the Army's Chief of WAC Recruiting. After four years, she was transferred back to the Pentagon with the Assistant Chief of Staff, Force Development.  Three years later, she moved to the Training and Doctrine Command, Ft. Monroe, Virginia.  

In 1974, after a life long career serving her country, Julie retired to the Tidewater area of Virginia.  During her retirement years, she stayed active, playing golf and bridge.  

In 2010, Julie and her sister WASP were awarded the Co
ngressional Gold Medal, the highest honor that Congress can award civilians, for their pioneering service to America in World War II.  

On August 6, 2013, Julie Ledbetter passed away peacefully in her Newport News, Virginia home.  She was ninety one.  

Julie is survived by her best friend of more than 50 years, Phyllis A. George;  first cousins, Betty Horton Martin, Grace Ledbetter Clary, both of SC, and Joseph Ledbetter of TN; dear friend, Betty Anderson Barton and  daughter Julie Barton Haynes, Julie's namesake and godchild, both of SC.   


Funeral services with full military honors will be held at Arlington National Cemetery at a later date. Arrangements by Weymouth Funeral Home.

Respectfully written and posted by Nancy Parrish

Sources: 
Wings Across America Archives
"Out of the Blue and Into History" by WASP Betty Turner

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Katherine Willinger, 44-W-8 Aug. 8, 2013


As a youngster, I was fascinated by the freedom
and excitement of flying
WASP Katherine Willinger


Katherine Willinger was born in The Bronx, NYC, on July 12, 1919 and spent much of her life in the city she loved.



In 1943, she learned of the experimental flying training program for women pilots, applied, and became one of 108 young women who paid their way to Sweetwater, Texas to enter the training class of 44-W-8 to become Women Airforce Service Pilots.     

After successfully completing over seven months of Army Air Force flight training, she and 48 classmates graduated in October of 1944 and received their silver WASP wings.  They were then stationed at different air fields and air bases across America.   

Katherine was stationed at Goodfellow Field in San Angelo, Texas.  At Goodfellow she flew At-6’s, BT-13’s and PT-19’s as part of  the flight training given the aviation cadets stationed at the 2533rd Base Unit. 

On 20 December 1944, the WASP were disbanded.     As Katherine later wrote, “After deactivation, I returned home, put flying behind me, and went into the world of business.”  She tackled her new challenges just as she had those as a WASP,  becoming the first woman president in the business of manufacturing photograph record albums.

Her client list included Angel Records, Capitol Records and Decca, among others.  She considered the work challenging,  as well as rewarding.   In 1970,  Katherine sold her company and traveled the world.

When she returned home,  she began designing and making hardwood furniture, eventually expanding her hobbies to include calligraphy, sculpting.  and stained glass.   She also took courses at Fordham University and the New School University In Liberal Arts.  

Katherine suffered through several bouts with cancer (non-Hodgkins lymphoma in 1983, and colon cancer in 1992).  After overcoming those challenges,  she spent her last several decades enjoying the exciting lifestyle in Manhattan to the fullest.  She was a faithful supporter of the arts and was a regular at theatres, museums, concerts,  and operas around New York City.  

In 2010, Katherine and her sister Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) were honored to receive the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest honor the Congress can award,  for their pioneering service as the first women in history to fly America’s military aircraft. 

Katherine died in her beloved New York City on August 8, 2013.   She was predeceased by her parents, Max and Minnie (Weinstein) Willinger, brother Henry Willinger and sister Miriam Epstein (Julius). 

She is survived by her long-term partner and friend Theresa Falgiatore, nephews Allan Willinger (Jo Schlesinger), Richard Willinger and Leonard Epstein (Jan), nieces Judith Willinger (Robert Luke) and Dr. Adele Strominger (Norman), and sister-in-law Miriam Willinger. 

God bless those whose lives she touched in so many wonderful ways.

Respectfully posted by Nancy Parrish


sources:

“Out of the Blue and Into History,” by WASP Betty Turner, p. 479.