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 

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


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.