Monday, February 28, 2022

WASP Final Flight

 WASP Deanie Bishop Parrish, 44-W-4


"Failure isn't failure unless you let it be. 
 It's simply a change in direction. 
 Just count your many blessings move on. 
 With God's help, anything is possible!"


Deanie Bishop Parrish passed away peacefully in her home in Waco, Texas, on February 24, 2022, just one day shy of her 100th birthday. She met every challenge of her century-long life with spunk, determination, persistence, humor, kindness, integrity, steadfast faith, and a sparkle that lit up the room. 

 

She was born Marie Odean Bishop on February 25, 1922; in a boxcar just off the main tracks in Defuniak Springs, Florida; to Jacob Ambus Bishop and Anna Ellen Bell. Nicknamed Odie, she was the middle child of seven brothers and sisters. In 1927, the family moved to the tiny town of Alturas in central Florida, where Odie followed her big sister to the one-room schoolhouse. Later that year, the family moved 30 miles south to the larger town of Avon Park. Odie again followed her sister to school, but the teacher said she was too young. Yet, her mom insisted the teacher test the young girl. Odie passed and began first grade a year and a half early. For the next 12 years, she never missed a day of school and graduated in 1939 as the Valedictorian at Avon Park High School. There may have only been 30 in her class, but she always said, Id still have been the Valedictorian even if there were 300!

 

During the Bishop’s early days in Avon Park, they lived in a wooden-floored tent about four miles outside of town. When Odie was six, her family was fortunate to survive the Great Okeechobee Hurricane, now called Florida’s deadliest natural disaster. The young family took shelter in a cinder block home. The infamous Florida hurricane destroyed everything they owned except the family clock. It was found in a tree over a mile away.

 

While in high school, the five-foot-tall Odie played center on the basketball team until the team began traveling and she had to go to work to help support the family. By day, Odie was a bookkeeper and teller at the local bank, and by night, she was the cashier at the local movie theatre. When World War II started in Europe, the United States designated Avon Park as home to one of the hundreds of primary schools set up across America for young men to learn to fly. Young Odean, no longer called Odie, met the instructors as they cashed their checks at her bank. Convinced she was just as smart, if not smarter than the young cadets, she found an instructor and began taking lessons. Her first solo flight experience, taking off in a Piper Cub, was a harrowing one. Controlling the plane from the backseat as you do when you first solo, she was climbing to altitude and the control stick came off in her hand. She didn’t hesitate for one second as she tore her seatbelt off and climbed over the front seat just in time to keep the plane from stalling and crashing. Her instructor watched the whole thing from the ground and swore to himself if Odean made it down alive, she would never fly again! But when she finally landed safely and the stunned instructor found out why she landed from the front seat, he told her, “Now you know! You have the right stuff to be a pilot!”  Her death-defying “stick story made the local paper and subsequent publications later in her life.

 

Once America was thrust into WWII, Odean packed up and headed for Houston, Texas, found a job in a bank, and continued flying. After earning enough money to buy a third share in an airplane, she began flying with the Civil Air Patrol, patrolling the coast for downed aircraft and submarines. In 1943, she heard about the WWII Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) training program, and on her 21st birthday, she applied. She was granted an interview with the head of the program, Jacqueline Cochran.

 

Thus, she boarded a train to Fort Worth, Texas, passed her interview and all tests, including an Army physical, and was accepted into the WASP Class, 44-W-4. She then paid her way to Sweetwater, Texas, and from November 1943 to May 1944, she trained to fly the Army Way.” Following graduation, she was sent to Greenville, Mississippi, to fly as an engineering test pilot. After a brief check out with a twin-engine aircraft, she was assigned to transition to fly the B-26 twin-engine bomber at Tyndall Air Force Base in Panama City, Florida. After completing the training, the Army kept her at Tyndall as an air-to-air tow target pilot to train B-24 gunners for combat. One B-24 pilot, Bill Parrish, who had just returned from evading capture after being shot down over Yugoslavia became the “love of her life.” He nicknamed Odean Deanie,” a name she cherished the rest of her life.

 

The WASP disbanded on December 20, 1944, and Deanie and her older sister moved to Langley, Virginia, where she challenged the U.S. Air Force to hire her as the first civilian chief aircraft dispatcher. They did, and in June 1946, Deanie and Bill were married. Months later, she followed him to the Panama Canal Zone. With Bill gone much of the time, she was hired as personal private secretary for the director of operations for the 6th Air Force.

 

For the next 20 years, Deanie was a proud Air Force wife. She followed Bill on his assignments as they started their family. Their first daughter, Nancy Allyson, was born at Lowry Air Force Base in Denver, Colorado. Their youngest daughter, Barby Anna, was born near Tachikawa Air Base at Tokyo General Hospital. Eventually, the Air Force sent the family to McGuire Air Force Base, New Jersey; Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama; and finally, to Ellington Air Force Base, Texas, where Bill retired. 

 

In 1975, with two daughters in college and after thousands of hours volunteering at Houston Baptist Hospital Southeast, Deanie decided to do what she couldn’t’ do when she finished high school. Four years later, she graduated summa cum laude from the University of Houston.

 

Bill retired from his second career in the real estate business in 1981, and the couple moved to Waco, Texas, to be near their grandchildren. Deanie began volunteering for Historic Waco and the Waco Welcome Corps. When she wasn’t spending time with her grandchildren, which was her favorite thing, she and Bill cruised the country in their motor home on mission trips. In 1992, Deanie wrote We Got the Stuff, the Right Stuff,” the only WASP rap song, for the 50th Anniversary of the WASP. Unfortunately, her Bill passed away in 1993.

 

With the encouragement of her daughter, Nancy, Deanie agreed to volunteer as the Assistant Director of Wings Across America, a project created to educate and inspire generations with the history of the pioneering WASP. Deanie and Nancy began a 24-year journey of interviewing and sharing the inspirational stories of more than 100 WASP. In 2003, they co-founded the National WASP WWII Museum in Sweetwater, Texas. Deanie became an inspirational speaker as she continued to share stories about the WASP and helped lobby for the Texas WASP to be inducted into the Texas Aviation Hall of Fame. In 2007, Deanie and Nancy created a traveling FlyGirls exhibit for the Womens Memorial in Washington, D.C. Deanie also began a campaign to lobby Congress to award the WASP the Congressional Gold Medal. At the official ceremony in 2010, Deanie proudly represented all WASP as the featured speaker at the ceremony where key U.S. Senators and the House Speaker presented the WASP with this well-deserved medal.

 

Deanie Bishop Parrish was a life-long Southern Baptist and a long-time member of Columbus Avenue Baptist Church. She served as secretary of the National WASP WWII organization, was inducted into the 99s International Forest of Friendship, accepted the WASP Congressional Gold Medal, and also received a second Congressional Gold Medal for her service with the Civil Air Patrol. In 2011, she was honored as an Eagle in the Gathering of Eagles program at Maxwell Air Force Base, forever commemorating the heroes of our U.S. military. She was a proud Alumni By Choice of Baylor University, and as a pinnacle achievement, alongside her daughter, Nancy, she was inducted into the National Women in Aviation Pioneering Hall of Fame in 2015.  

 

For Deanie, there was never an idea that was too big. Ensuring the WASP were in the history books was indeed a lofty goal, but she reached it. She raised the bar and challenged others to do the same. From learning to fly when women didn’t do that, to flying military aircraft to support WWII, to fighting for the Congressional Gold Medal that recognized the women who made such an impact…Deanie Bishop Parrish lived a blessed life that proved with God, nothing was impossible. She would challenge you to carry on that torch!

 

She was preceded in death by her husband, William Allison Parrish, daughter Barby Anna Parrish Williams, brothers HL, Willie J, Edward James, and sisters Ruby Lucille and Louise. Left to honor her memory are daughter, Nancy Allyson Parrish; grandson, Brady Williams and wife, Kimberly Williams; granddaughter, Brook Henry and husband, Michael Henry; her great-grandchildren Logan, Jonah, Charley Ann, and Jack; son-in-law Dale Williams, and brother Walton Bishop. 

 

A private graveside service with military honors will be at Waco Memorial Park on March 4, 2022, as Deanie requested. The family invites you to sign the guest book at Wilkerson Hatch: 6101 Bosque Blvd. Waco, Texas 76710, beginning Wednesday morning, March 2 at 10 am. You are welcome to leave a message or memory on the “Tribute Wall” at www.WHBfamily.com.

 

In lieu of flowers, please consider donating to whatever touches your heart in memory of WASP Deanie Parrish. You will be helping your worthy cause, and in naming your honoree, you will be educating America. If you prefer, you may donate to the Wings Across America Project” @ Baylor University. https://bbis.baylor.edu/give 

 

LINKS:

Great Okeechobee Hurricane https://www.sun-sentinel.com/sfl-1928-hurricane-story.html 

Video: The Stick Story https://vimeo.com/106602305/4ef5e2f96c

WASP Rap Song http://www.wingsacrossamerica.us/wasp/songs/rap.htm

Eagle Deanie Parrish https://goefoundation.org/eagles/parrish-deanie/

Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony https://vimeo.com/106629651

Women in Aviation International Pioneering Hall of Fame: https://www.wai.org/pioneers/2015/deanie-

Deanie Parrish--Wings Across America http://www.wingsacrossamerica.org/about.html

Video: We Got the Stuff:   https://youtu.be/RFPJ9xUrnno


Personal note:

I've always said that mom raised the bar so high, I would have to learn to fly to clear it.  I'm so grateful for her presence and partnership in my life. Her belief in me and in the Good Lord made me think bigger and do more than I ever thought I could. Of course, I absolutely believe that God's in charge, and He certainly has been.  Just look what blessings overflowed in Deanie Parrish's life!   Mom was an igniter...with just a word, she could start a virtual fire of enthusiasm and accomplishment.  May God bless all of those who have been touched by this mighty woman of faith and determination.  You can truly accomplish anything with God's help and just a little bit of mustard seed faith.  


For more information, please google Deanie Parrish and just look at how God has truly blessed her and the WASP.  So, go,  Do.  Make a difference in whatever you choose.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Lucile Doll Wise, 43-7 | August 2, 2018

"Jacqueline Cochran was looking for WASP.  They told me I would have to be interviewed and they would contact me when they came to the Wichita area.  But I didn’t wait for that.  I went down to Houston for my interview, to speed things up.  And I think that’s one of the smartest things I did." 
    WASP Lucile Doll Wise 
     43-W-7

Lucile Doll Wise, Women Airforce Service Pilot (WASP) of World War II and beloved mother and grandmother, died peacefully August 2, 2018 at her residence in Arvada, Colorado, one day after her 98th birthday. 
She was born August 1, 1920 in Larned, Kansas, the daughter of Fred and Edna Barstow Doll. She was a graduate of Larned High School in 1938, and the Colorado Woman’s College in Denver Colorado in 1940.
She learned to fly in Wichita, KS and was accepted for training as a WASP pilot in May, 1943. She was among the first women pilots in history to fly military aircraft. After training, she was assigned to the Army Air Forces Weather Wing in Ashville, NC and later in Kansas City, MO, and served until the WASP were disbanded in December of 1944.
On September 5, 1950 she married Robert W. Wise and resided in Alexandria, VA until 1982, when she returned to Larned.  He preceded her in death.
She volunteered in the WASP office in Washington, DC in 1977, working on lobbying efforts to obtain military recognition and Veteran’s benefits for WASP members. Within the WASP organization, she served in numerous roles including Regional Director, By-Laws Chair, Scholarship Chair, and President. 
Lucile was a member of the Presbyterian Church and was a member of a number of groups including the Colorado Aviation Historical Society, the Women Military Aviators Association, and Women in Aviation, International. She was active in community and church affairs, and served as a volunteer archivist and docent for several years at the Santa Fe Trail Center in Larned. In 2010 she and her sister WASP were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, highest civilian honor the Congress can bestow.
She is survived by her daughter, Susan C. Carl of Denver, CO; a son, Robert B. Wise of Loudon, TN; two grandchildren, Emily Carl and David Wise; and two brothers, Wayne Doll of Warsaw, MO, and Jack Doll of Senecaville, OH.
A memorial service will be held on September 2, 2:30 pm, at the Brookdale Meridian, 9555 W. 59th Ave. in Arvada. In lieu of flowers, donations are suggested to the WASP Endowment, Texas Woman’s University, PO Box 425618, Denton, TX 76204-5618.


Respectfully reposted with quote and photos from Wings Across America.

Personal note:

In 2000, Lucile welcomed us to her home in Aurora, Colorado for one of our first Wings Across America interviews in Colorado.  We began interview and,  once she realized we were cheering her on, her smile came easily.   She was a great subject.

Over the course of the next few years, Lucile became a touchstone of sorts, always asking me where I got my  facts, challenging conclusions and every once in a while, being surprised and delighted with my answers.  I always appreciated her loyalty to the WASP and, above all, to telling the truth.

God bless this special lady and to all of us who loved her.  

Nancy Parrish

Friday, July 20, 2018

Jean McCreery, 44-W-10. |. May 10, 2018



"My first flight was with a barnstormer at the age of five.  I loved it!  I also tried to 'fly' out of the barn loft with an umbrella.  This was less than successful..."
 WASP Jean Terrell McCreery, 44-10





The indomitable Marguerite Jean Terrell Moreo McCreery has "...slipped the surly bonds of Earth. And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings."   She had a lifelong love affair with flying and her passion will undoubtedly continue to fuel many who will follow in her footsteps.  

Jean was born on April 28, 1924, in Troy, Ohio to Ivan and Marguerite Terrell.  Just five years later,  the young girl took a flight with a barnstormer and fell in love with flying.  Following graduation from Troy High School, she worked as a draftsman for the Waco Aircraft Company.   

It wasn't until her freshman year at Ohio University that she truly put her love of flying into action.  She enrolled in ground school training as part of the CPT (Civilian Pilot Training) program. The following summer, she began flight training at the Treaty City Airport in Greenville, Ohio.  She earned her hours using money from her job at the aircraft company.  In November of 1943, Jean had accumulated enough hours for her private pilot's license and applied for WASP training.

She was accepted into class 44-W-10 and arrived with 120 other hopeful women pilots at Avenger Field, Sweetwater, Texas, in May of 1944. During training, the class was told that the WASP would be disbanded at the end of the year.    Jean fully embraced the training and loved being a member of Class 44-10.


"When we were in training...we were told that our class would not have a yearbook.  Peggy Weber and I decided to publish one ourselves.  It was a great success and we spent the profits eating steak in Sweetwater."  

After seven months of training, Jean and 67 of her classmates graduated and earned their silver WASP Wings.  Because 44-W-10 was the last class of Army Air Force Flight Training for women, dignitaries came from across the country, including over 100 active duty WASP.   General Hap Arnold, Lt General Barton K. Yount, and Director Jacqueline Cochran each spoke as part of the final WASP graduation ceremony.  It was December 7, 1944.

Following graduation, Jean was assigned to Randolph Field, San Antonio, Texas, where she flew engineering test flights and check flights in the AT-6 until the last day.  On December 20, 1944, the WASP were deactivated and Jean paid her way from Randolph Field, Texas to the Banana River Naval Air Station in Florida, where she married her high school sweetheart, Earl Moreo, Jr.

After WWII ended, the young couple settled in Troy, Ohio and raised a family of ten children, five boys, and five girls.  Earl worked as a toolmaker while Jean stayed home caring for the family.  In 1970, Jean went back to work as a civil engineering draftsman, working for the city of Vandalia, Ohio for seven years. She also drove a school bus and for three years, delivered RFD mail. 

Following the untimely death of her husband, Jean began a new chapter. "I took my car, clothes, typewriter and $200 and left for California."  She worked as a draftsman and helped her daughter with her family.  Two years later, she moved to Arizona and got another job and helped her son with his family.  When her mother became ill, she moved back to Ohio and worked for an engineering consulting firm in Columbus.  

On a trip to Marietta, Ohio to buy easements for AT&T, she met a widowed toolmaker named John W. McCreery.  As she described it later, "A year later, we were married in my hometown church in Troy with all my children, grandchildren, our families and friends in attendance."

Jean never met a challenge she couldn't tackle.   In 1993, Jean attended the Women In Military Service to America opening at Arlington.  The then President of the WASP, Vi Cowden, asked her, "What are you willing to do for the WASP?"  She mentioned that the WASP Newsletter needed an editor and Jean agreed.  She became editor the WASP News.  In 2002, she was elected for a two-year term as National WASP WWII Secretary. 

In 1995, Jean and her classmate reprised their class book, updating and publishing "44-W-10, The Lost Last Class at Avenger Field."   In her later years, she continued to take on new challenges, representing the WASP at different events around the county.  She also found to time to volunteer to cook for her parish priest.   

In 2010, Jean and her sister WASP were honored with the Congressional Gold Medal for their selfless and pioneering service as the first women in history to fly America's military aircraft.  


She celebrated her 94th birthday on April 28th. Jean took her final flight on May 10, 2018.   


She is survived by her children and their spouses; Martha Fischer, Earl Moreo III, William Moreo, Emily Friend, Mary Farrell, Weezie Bowser, Joe Moreo, Matt Moreo, Maude Clemons, and Robert Moreo.  Also left to honor her memory are 23 grandchildren and 19 greatgrandchildren.

A service to honor Jean's life was held at St. Patrick's Church in Troy on July 1st, 2018.   As you remember the life of this unstoppable and unforgettable WASP, please consider a donation to the Women's WWII Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery.

_______________

On a personal note.

We interviewed Jean for our Wings Across America project in 2003.  She and her friend, WASP Betty Turner, stayed with us in our home in Waco.  It was a delightful few days.  I can still remember her warm, deep laugh...and she did love to laugh.  Their trip to Texas was another grand adventure for Jean and we were honored to be a part of it!

God bless Jean, her family and all of us who loved her.  May we all be as vibrant and blessed as this remarkable WASP.


Respectfully Posted by Nancy Parrish, Wings Across America

The second to last page of 44-W-10's classbook.
Jean's Oshkosh Interview 

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Frances Ellis Winter Brookings, 44-7 | April 12, 2018


WASP Frances Ellis Winter Brookings, 100 years old, died at Forest Glen, Springfield, Ohio, on April 12, 2018. 

'Fran' was born in DuBois, Pennsylvania, on July 2, 1917, the fourth child and third daughter of Maude Elizabeth Baker Winter and Francis Ellis Winter. At an early age, her family moved to Erie, Pennsylvania, where she lived until 1934 when she moved to Hot Springs, Arkansas. 

She was educated at Hendrix College, Conway, Arkansas; Oklahoma College for Women (now known as Oklahoma University of Arts and Sciences at Chickasha, Oklahoma); and Louisiana State University where, at age 59, she earned a Master's degree in Library Science. She lived in Shreveport, Louisiana for over six decades and in 2008 moved to Springfield. 

During World War II Fran earned a pilot license and, completing all requirements, was accepted as one of the 103 trainees in WASP class 44-7.  September 8, 1944, after successfully completing over seven months of Army Air Force flight training, Fran and 58 of her classmates graduated, earned their silver WASP wings and became Women Airforce Service Pilots -- the first women in history to fly America's military aircraft.   

Following graduation, Fran's official Army orders sent her to Columbus Army Air Field, Columbus, Mississippi as part of the Flying Training Command's 30th Army Air Force -- 2112th AFBase Unit.  While there, she would have flown AT-10 flight testing missions as well as ferrying, utility and administrative missions.  For that service, Fran and her WASP sisters were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 2010.  It is the highest civilian honor Congress can bestow.

Following WWII, Fran married H.N. Kinney Brookings and they began their life together.  From 1970 to 1982 she was employed by the Caddo Parish Schools (Shreveport, LA) as an English Teacher and Librarian. 

Fran was a member of North Highlands United Methodist Church (Shreveport, LA) and, more recently, High Street United Methodist Church. She was active in many civic, church, and philanthropic activities, including the United Methodist Women, P.E.O. Sisterhood, Women's Auxiliary of the Springfield Symphony Orchestra, the Louisiana Retired Teachers' Association, and Delta Kappa Gamma Sorority. 

Fran was predeceased by a son, Nason Brookings, and her husband H. N. Kinney Brookings. She is survived by a daughter, Deborah Brookings Norberg (Reg) of Surprise, Arizona; two sons David Brookings (Kay) of Kansas City, Missouri, and Jeffrey Brookings (Allison) of Springfield, Ohio; seven grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren. 

Fran's family would like to express their gratitude to the staff of The Legacy at Forest Glen for taking such good care of our mother these past four years. A celebration of Fran's life will be held in Shreveport, Louisiana, where she lived most of her adult life and, with Kinney, raised her four children.

Respectfully posted from the Springfield News-Sun / Apr. 22, 2018 with additional WASP facts and photo added by Wings Across America.  God bless all those touched by the life of this wonderful WASP.

Betty Lee Heinrich Berkstresser, 43-W-4 |. July 1, 2018

"Go!  Have fun!"  
WASP Betty Heinrich Berkstresser, 43--W-4


WASP Betty Lee Heinrich Berkstresser was born May 12, 1919, in Houston TX.  She peacefully passed in her sleep and took her last flight on July 1, 2018.  She was 99.
Betty was a native Houstonian.  She attended Travis and Browning Elementary, James Hogg Middle School, La Porte High School and was a graduate of the University of Houston
When a U of H math professor for whom she was grading papers asked, “Would you like to be a pilot,” Betty jumped at the chance to learn to fly.  She immediately enrolled in the Civilian Pilot Training program at U of H, took her flight training at Hobby Airport and began adding hours to her logbook. 
Betty’s love of flying enabled her to serve as a Women Airforce Service Pilot (WASP). She was accepted into the 43-4 class of WASP trainees and reported to Avenger Field, Sweetwater, Texas.  Betty’s favorite plane was the AT-7, in which she flew over 500 hours.  Following her graduation in August of 1943, she was assigned to Love Field in Dallas, Texas as a ferry pilot, as a ferry pilot and then as a Link Trainer instructor in Orlando, FL. 
After a transfer to Hondo Army Air Field in Hondo, Texas, a navigation and engineering school, Betty’s assignment was navigational flying in C-45s training cadet navigators. She met her soon to be husband, pilot Virgel K. Berkstresser (Herky), while in Hondo and remained based there until the WASP were disbanded. 
Two days after the WASP were disbanded, Betty married her co-pilot, and they later settled in Houston to rearing their family. Betty was a wonderful mother to her four children: Betty Keene, a former NASA aerospace engineer and private pilot; Peggy, a former teacher and outdoor educator; Terry, materials manager and private pilot; and Kerry, an actuarial analyst, and hot air balloonist. While rearing their family, Betty taught multiple grade levels for many years at Houston ISD elementary schools Garden Villas, Bastian, and Golfcrest, eventually retiring from teaching in 1983. 
Throughout her retirement, she immensely enjoyed visits from former students and room mothers. Betty loved to read, garden, sew, quilt, stargaze, and travel.  She rode more than 50,000 miles around the U.S. and Canada on her Honda 500cc motorcycle with Herky and Garner State Park with friends. She and Peggy took her two grandchildren on yearly road trips throughout the west and to Canada. Gallivanting, whether around the country or just around town, was always much loved. A special memory was the “extraordinary day” when she and all WASP were honored in Washington D.C. at the Capitol with the Congressional Gold Medal for their pioneering work during WWII.  
Following Virgel’ s death in 2007, Betty stayed in her Houston home living with daughter, Peggy, and later several live-in caregivers. Her grand backyard full of fountains, flowers, and birds was always a joy.  After watching the "Treehouse Masters" television program, Betty had her treehouse built in Leakey overlooking the Frio Springs. Unfortunately, a fall and a hospital stay required a move to an assisted living facility, however, she spent time at her treehouse, “Betty’s Birdhouse”, whenever she could. 
Betty was predeceased by her parents, Rhea and Joseph Heinrich; sister, Dorothy; and brother, Raymond. Surviving are daughters Betty and partner Bill Hezlep of Round Top, TX, Peggy of Leakey, TX, Kerry and partner Barry Barnett of Dripping Springs, TX; son, Terry and wife Patti of Leakey, TX; brother James of Baytown, TX; sister-in-law and fellow WASP, Barbara Willis Heinrich of Hayward, CA; grandchildren, Warren Berkstresser and his wife Reanne of Seattle, WA and  Kristen and her husband Tyler Carter, and great-grandchild, Owen Carter, of Houston, TX; grand cat Tess Barnett (Kerry’s cat); and numerous nieces and nephews.
The family will celebrate Betty’s life privately. Betty would say, "Go!  Have fun!" 
Many thanks to all her loving and dedicated caregivers she was blessed to have help her through her final years.

Best wishes or comments to the family may be made at http://www.nelsonfuneralhomes.net
Donations in memory of Betty Berkstresser may be made to National WASP WWII Museum, 210 Avenger Field Rd., Sweetwater, TX 79556 (http://waspmuseum.org); your local flying school (https://www.aopa.org/learntofly/school/index.cfm); or feel free to just “go flying” – she would like that. 


Original post written by Betty's family.
Respectfully reposted with minor edits by Wings Across America

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Ethel Louise Jones Sheffler, 44-W-5. |. June 5, 2018

"I got bit by the (flying) bug. When I got down, there was no way they could keep me on the ground."
        WASP Ethel Louise Jones Sheffler

The youngest of 6 children, Ethel Louise was born on January 20, 1921 to Ralph and Carrie (Auer) Jones.  Growing up on her parents' farm in Heyworth, IL, she spent her time outdoors, doing farm chores and enjoying nature. 

In 1936, Ethel saw an ad in the paper about sightseeing airplane rides given by the Hunter Brothers. She spent $1 on that first flight, and always remembered seeing the fields and corn being detasseled from above. After a single flight, "I got bit by the bug. When I got down, there was no way they could keep me on the ground." 

She worked several jobs to save money for flight lessons and took her 1st lesson on July 23, 1942. When the Women Airforce Service Pilots were formed a year later, she had already logged 173 flight hours.  She applied and was accepted into WASP training, paid her way to Sweetwater, Texas and arrived at Avenger Field, in December of 1943 as a member of the WASP training class of-W-5. After completing seven months of Army Air Force Flight training, Ethel and 71 of her classmates graduated and earned their silver WASP wings.  

Ethel received Army orders to report to Gunter Army Air Field in Gunter Alabama.  There, she flew engineering test, utility, and administrative flights as well as instrument flight instruction until the WASP were disbanded 20 December 1944.    She would log over 500 hours in the next year.  During that time, she would have flown BT-13's, AT-'6's, AT-10's and UC-78's.  

Following her military service, she continued as a flight instructor and charter pilot at airfields in IL, NJ, and TN.  She was a role model for many aspiring pilots, male and female, who continued on as professional as well as recreational pilots. In 1950, she was invited to vacation in Sao Paolo, by friends who were living in Brazil. A blind date led to marriage to Ira Sheffler, and she remained in Brazil for several years. 
Their first daughter, Sue, was born in Brazil. By 1953, the young family had moved to central NJ, where daughters Sandy and Linda were born. 

In the mid-1950s, Ethel became the 7th woman in the world to obtain her helicopter rating and is a charter member of the Whirly-Girls.  Traditional expectations restricted her ability to fly openly, but she still flew secretly. She wrote a piece she called "Homesick Angel" about feeling stranded from her passion, flight. In 1960, she threw off the bonds of tradition and returned to flying full time as a chief instructor and charter pilot while raising her 3 daughters. She also worked at a printing shop to support the family. "She used her skill, passion and free access to planes to teach each daughter to fly - in fact, we were not allowed to get our driver's license until we had our pilot's license." 

In 1972, she returned to the Midwest, based first at the airport in Galesburg IL, followed by a few years in Columbia TN, and finally in Bloomington IL. Upon retiring as a flight instructor at the age of 83, with over 25,600 flight hours, she moved to Appleton WI to be closer to her daughter, Linda. Over her years as a pilot and as an adventurer, she flew to 49 states (all but Hawaii) and traveled to all 7 continents. 


Ethel Louise Jones Sheffler died on June 5, 2018, surrounded by family. "We will miss our humble, strong-willed, independent, curious, nontraditional mom. She raised us surrounded by books, nature and a wide variety of music. As often as she could, she took us on adventures to woods and gardens, historical sites and factories to see how the world worked."  

She was an active Girl Scout leader, 4H leader and volunteered at the local mental health facility. In Appleton, while she was able, she volunteered at the Paper Discovery Museum and Northeast Wisconsin Land Trust. 

Ethel is survived by Sue Sheffler (Rob Meier) and their children Andrew and David Meier and Justine Sheffler, Arlington, MA; Sandy Sheffler (Mike Dooley) and children Joylyn and Alana Cordak, Woodstock, GA; and Linda Sheffler (John Thompson) and children Skylar Thompson (Carrie Berg) and Lauren Thompson of Appleton, WI.

Ethel chose to donate her body to the Medical College of Wisconsin to contribute to the knowledge and skills of doctors. At her request, there will be no public service. 

"A tremendous Thank You, from our mom and her family to the staff at the Heritage and most especially the CBRF for your kindness, care, compassion and friendship to our mom.  Life wasn't always easy, but it was always interesting. May you return to the wide open sky that you love."

______________________Quotes from Ethel's daughtersOriginally published in Appleton Post-Crescent on June 10, 2018Respectfully edited and posted with additional WASP information and photo by Wings Across America.  May God bless this high-flying, inspirational WASP and all of those touched by her passion to serve and to soar.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Florence Shutsy Reynolds, 44-W-5 | March 15, 2018

"My favorite word?  Oh, honor. That to me is more than a word.  

That’s a way of life.  I mean, I’d die for honor.  

That sounds melodramatic maybe, but, that’s how I feel."

WASP Shutsy Reynolds


Pioneering woman pilot, silversmith, lapidarist, silk screener, airbrush artist and humanitarian Florence Shutsy Reynolds took her last flight on March 15, 2018, her journey complete, her mission accomplished.  

She gave the very best of herself and her talents to lift other people by sharing her message of honor, patriotism, friendship, kindness, generosity, and compassion.  The world may be a little less bright today, but her legacy lives on through all of us who loved her.  We will never, ever forget her.

Florence Genevieve Shutsy was born ninety-five years ago to John and Anna Shutsy in Connellsville, Pennsylvania. She was the youngest of four children (brothers A.J. and Irvin and sister, Eleanor). Eventually, the young family began raising poultry, and young Florence was given her first job: taking care of thousands of young chicks.  

From her earliest memories, Shutsy dreamed of flying. Perhaps it was watching the mail plane pick up the mail by flying low over 2 poles to 'hook' the mail.  Once she saw that first airplane, she began making models (the kind you cut out with a razor blade).  Her collection grew to hundreds.

She loved to tell the story of her dad asking the kids what their dreams were, as they sat around the dinner table.  When he told her she was still a little too young, she replied, "I'm gonna learn how to fly!"  Laughter rang out.  Years later, she still smiled when she teased them, because she did what she said, and none of them could remember anything they said. 

She saved up her pennies, bought Roscoe Turner's famous book on Aerobatics and studied it front to back.  She didn't understand it all, but she was learning, always learning, about flying.

She graduated High School in 1940 and began saving for college.  On December 7, 1941, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.  Like all of America, the small town of Connellsville was deeply affected, as young men signed up to do their part.  
"There was this surge of a patriotism…I mean I grew up learning….by the time I was 5 years old I learned how to salute. We all did.  We put the gold star out for my uncle that was killed in world war I…and we had the old uniform. We read the old letters.  I grew up on patriotism."
She immediately took a job in Pittsburgh and started business school.  Factories were desperate for workers, and her skills at computing payroll eventually landed her the job of head of the payroll department. She was only 19.   

She saw an ad in the paper for the last class of non-college students for the government-run CPT (Civilian Pilot Training) program. "You had to be 18, so when I filled out the application and the medical doctor was filling it out, he said, you realize that you have to be 18 for this, and I said, Yes sir, I do."  Technically, she didn't actually lie, but she corrected the record as soon as she turned 18.

After completing ground school, Shutsy took the civilian pilot written test and scored in the top two.  The top five students had been promised a scholarship for flying lessons, but she was told, "There's a war on and you're a girl."   She began a letter-writing campaign and, eventually, was awarded the scholarship.
"By the time I got it, I was all by myself in this group.  I remember getting into this J-3 cub-- first time I’ve ever crawled into an airplane.  I thought it was gonna shake itself apart. I loved every minute of it!  My first flight was my first lesson.  I still have the logbook where he checked off my attitude, my coordination, my eagerness...I go thru it every now and then to see just how eager I was.  Eagerness was always a high mark."
After her solo, her sister, Eleanor, saved money to help pay for Shutsy's flying time. Every Sunday, her dad would go up with her.  Once she built up enough hours,  she applied for the Canadian Air Force and the Royal Air Force.  She was too young.  It was then that she learned about the women's training program in America.

Still too young to apply for the WASP, she began writing Jacqueline Cochran a letter every week, and every week, a letter would come in reply: "You're too young."  When she found out the WACS had lowered their age limit, she made sure Miss Cochran knew and, eventually, she received a telegram ordering her to report to Harrisburg for a physical. As she later recalled, "I was in 7th heaven!"

After the interview, physical and tests, she was accepted into class 44-W-5, paying her own way to travel to Sweetwater, Texas in December of 1943.  On June 27, 1944, Shutsy and 71 classmates completed seven months of Army Air Force flight training and graduated, earning their silver WASP wings. After graduation, Shutsy's orders sent her to Merced, California to the Basic Flying Training school, where she flight tested BT-13's and AT-6's.
"If airplanes underwent maintenance, especially overhauls, engine changes, or any major changes, they would have to be test flown before the male cadets could fly them.  That was my job as a WASP." 
After the WASP were disbanded on Dec. 20, 1944, Shutsy became part of the Army Air Communication Service, the Air Rescue Service, the Weather Station and Army Technical Group out of the Anchorage and Alaska district.  She served as an instructor in Link Trainers. While in Alaska, she met her future husband, Lyle A. Reynolds.

On July 7, 1949, she joined the USAF Reserves as a 2nd Lieutenant.  Her first assignment was Langley Field, Virginia.  She was promoted to First Lieutenant and assigned to headquarters Air Reserve Center in Denver.  In November 1952, she married Lyle and they lived in the Panama Canal Zone for the next 16 years.  While in the Canal Zone, she was assigned to the USAF Reserves, Caribbean Air Command and was promoted to Captain in October 1956.  She resigned her commission in October of 1960.


During her time in Panama, Shutsy began to blossom as an artist and silversmith.  Together, the young couple began to enjoy lapidary.  By the time they left Panama, they had completed a specially commissioned coral and bloodstone heart for a fifteen foot cross for the Episcopal Church of Panama. 


Lyle chose early retirement and the couple moved back to Connellsville following a serious illness and the death of her father.  They began a jewelry workshop as a hobby and eventually, turned it into a jewelry shop.  Following the death of her husband in 1988, Shutsy became more involved in the National WASP WWII Organization and volunteered to take charge of the WASP WWII Stores.  


Shutsy spent the next 20+ years in her shop in Connellsville creating and reproducing beautiful silver wings and wing jewelry to help share the history of the WASP.   Her 3' x 12' airbrushed banners were each created especially for WASP and visitors to sign at airshows and aviation events across America.  


During her tenure at Stores, she designed the WASP WWII Flag, which was voted OFFICIAL WASP WWII FLAG by the WASP organization.  She also created the WASP SCARF, which is still worn proudly by WASP across the country.  In 1994, Shutsy designed the WASP 50th Anniversary commemorative medallion, the WASP WWII collectible pin and in 1998, the logo for the Kids of the WASP.



For her service to her country, Florence Shutsy Reynolds was awarded the

American Campaign Medal and the World War II Victory Medal.  She was also awarded an honorable service lapel button and Woman’s Army Corps Service Medal.  She was a ground instructor certified in Link trainer, navigation, meteorology, aircraft, and engines.

She was a proud member of the Daedalians and in 1999, she was inducted into the International Forest of Friendship.  

She was elected Vice President of the National WASP WWII in 2004 and served until 2005, when she became acting President until 2006.  In 2007, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania honored her for being the first female to earn her pilots license. In 2010, Shutsy and her fellow WASP were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal for their service to our country during World War II. (It is the highest honor our US Congress can bestow.)

In 2011, the Falcon Foundation nominated Shutsy for the Connellsville High Hall of Fame, and in 2016, The Connellsville Airport Terminal was renamed “Shutsy Reynolds Terminal”.


Shutsy was a member of St. Johns Church in Connellsville. She could hear the bells from her front door. 

Along the way, Shutsy made many, many friends...never, ever met a stranger...and spread joy and boundless enthusiasm.  She did it with honor and integrity, with kindness and with courage through some pretty tough health challenges.  

She was preceded in death by her parents, John and Anna, her husband, Lyle Reynolds, brothers Louis (Mary), Irvin (Annabelle), sister Eleanor (Henry) Michalowski.

Those surviving to honor her memory include nieces and nephews Bonnie (Edward) Franko, Jerry (Kathy) Shutsy, Cindy Shutsy, Nancy (Dave) Felcher, Carl Shutsy, Janet (Kerry) Barvincak, grandnephews Scott and Christopher and grandniece Brandy (Paul).

In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation in Shutsy’s memory to the Animal Protective League of Cleveland, where she rescued her beloved puppy, Cesar or to a charity of your choice.

Respectfully written by Nancy Parrish, with quotes from the Wings Across America's interview with Shutsy Reynolds.  


___________________________

Personal Note:

If kindness, curiosity, humility, humor, generosity, persistence and honor could be rolled up into one person, it would be Shutsy Reynolds.  Those words are synonymous with the gentle, yet spunky lady pilot from Pennsylvania who blazed a trail and raised the bar.  

She was my friend, our champion, our first supporter as we began Wings Across America. I could never repay her kindness, but I was excited to use her likeness and her quote on the walls of our "Flygirls of WWII" WASP Exhibit.  I designed it to be six feet tall because to me, all the WASP are larger than life.   

I will miss her.  I will miss her encouraging voice and her unique, soft chuckle when she laughed.   But I am so grateful for the joy of knowing her and so honored to have called her my friend.  She still is.

I remember the old Indian legend her husband told her about.  When lightning strikes from the cloud to the ground, if you look quick, you might see what is waiting for you in eternity. For Shutsy, she was hoping for a Stearman with her name on it.  She added that she might want to renegotiate for an AT-6.  

As a Jesus follower, I am certain my friend, Shutsy Reynolds, is flying high in whatever plane she chooses from her brand new hangar full of planes.  

Fly high, my friend.  We are all better because we knew you.

God bless all of the those touched by this extraordinary woman. 

Nancy Parrish


              "Humility comes before honor."   Proverbs 18:12



More on Shutsy:

SLIDES

ARTICLES & VIDEO