Monday, April 6, 2009

WASP Mary Catherine Quist Edwards, 44-W-7

WASP Mary Catherine Quist Edwards passed away on Saturday, April 4, 2009.

There was a short notice published in the Austin American Statesman on April 6, 2009:

EDWARDS, Mary Quist, 86, of Victoria, formerly of Austin, died Saturday. Services 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, Cook-Walden/Capital Parks Cemetery, Pflugerville. Arrangements by Cook-Walden/Chapel of the Hills.

Nowhere does it say who she was or what she did. However, information will be posted as it is made available.

In the meantime, here are a few pieces of her story.

Mary Catherine Quist was a WASP--a member of the Women Airforce Service Pilots, first women in history to fly America's military aircraft.

Mary Catherine entered WASP training from Austin, Texas. She traveled to Avenger Field in west Texas in February of 1944 to join the class of 44-7. She graduated and earned her silver WASP wings on September 8, 1944. From Avenger, she was sent to Blytheville Army Air Field in Blytheville, Arkansas. At this base, WASP flew engineering test flights and as instrument check pilots, utility/administrative pilots, they ferried aircraft to storage and conducted flight checks on returning overseas pilots. Aircraft at the base included the B-25 (co-pilots) and the AT-10.

I met Mary Catherine at the ceremony in Galveston, Texas to induct the WASP of Texas into the Texas Aviation Hall of Fame. She wore her medal and seemed very proud and honored to be included. I only met her for a moment.

God bless Mary Catherine and her family--and all the WASP.


  1. Thanks for posting this--my grandmother was one heck of a lady, and my hero. I'd love to share a little bit more about her here, if that's OK.

    She loved flight from an early age--she and her brother Charlie were infatuated with it. She took her first flying lessons when she was 17 in 1940. After graduating high school, she enrolled at the University of Texas at Austin. She rushed to finish her degree in 2 1/2 years so that she could sign up to become a WASP, and follow her brother into the service as a pilot.

    She fondly recalled her time spent at Avenger Field, and had many photographs as a result of being the scrapbooker for her class. (I always loved the cartoons!) She was also a group commander in her class. She was known by her friends as Mary Catherine, and most old photos of her have her labeled as "MC." She loved the camaraderie and the "can do" spirit that her sisters-in-flight held. In Arkansas, she flew instrument checks on various aircraft that had just been "repaired." Despite flying the venerable B-25 Mitchell, she always held a special place in her heart for the PT-17 Stearman--she loved that open cockpit biplane.

    After the war, she and Charlie opened up their own flight school in Austin. She had many great stories about those years as well, including the time she had to crash land one of their planes in a cornfield. As was recounted yesterday, she wrote out a note in her pocket that read "I was too chicken to jump!", just in case she didn't make it. Although the flight school was forced to shut down after two of their aircraft were lost, she did manage to teach my grandfather, George Edwards, how to fly (from what I understand, he wasn't the best pilot!) Charlie returned to the Air Force, eventually retiring as a colonel.

    After my grandparents married, they moved to Mexico City, where my grandfather was a president of the Dixie Wax Paper company. My mother Nancy was born in 1954, and my aunt Carol in 1958. Together with my aunt Margaret (my grandfather's daughter with his late wife), my grandparents raised their three girls in Mexico City. All three returned to Texas for college and remained in the US.

    After my grandfather retired in 1985 or so, my grandparents moved back to Austin, which meant I was able to spend much more time with them. Because of my grandmother, I was the only boy I knew of who held Amelia Earhart as his hero! My grandmother told me her stories, and passed on her love of flight, geography, travel, and stamps to me. When the Confederate Air Force was in town, she could generally talk them into giving me "special tours" of the vintage aircraft, and would tell me about her experiences with them. She had many WASP friends that she kept in contact with, especially after moving back to Texas, and greatly enjoyed joining other WASP on travel vacations around the globe. One of my fondest memories was traveling with her to Washington, DC when the WASP were recognized with their WWII Victory and American Campaign ribbons. I know that she had talked to at least two authors working on books about the WASP, and also gave a presentation at UT on her experiences that was written up in the Daily Texan. Her oral history and some of her letters are on file with the Texas Women's University.

    The past decade has been very difficult for our family. Both of her daughters preceded her in death; first my mom, in 1997, and then my aunt Carol, in 2008, both of whom died suddenly and unexpectedly well before their time. My grandmother was slowly taken from us, the victim of Alzheimer's disease. Her funeral yesterday was attended by many family and friends (including at least one other WASP) who fondly remembered the life of this extraordinary women who served as my role model. I have her to thank for so much of who I am!

    --Chris Glazner
    Falls Church, VA

    1. She was Aunt Mary Catherine to me because my mother's name is Katherine and my other aunt's name was Mary. She was married to my Uncle Buddy (George Garrett Edwards, Jr.). I saw her a few times at the nursing home in Victoria, TX when she had Alzheimer's. I remember going with my mother and my cousin Margaret to tell Aunt Mary Catherine that her eldest child, Carole, had died. She didn't know who any of us were. She didn't remember her children or her husband. It was as if she was meeting us for the first time. The year Aunt Mary Catherine died was a trying time for my family as we attended several funerals close together - all relatives.