Thursday, October 29, 2009

WASP Ann Cawley O'Connor, 44-7

WASP Ann O'Conner passed away on September 20, 2009 at the age of 87.

Her passing is yet another reminder of the fragile numbers of courageous and pioneering women who paved the way for all women pilots flying military aircraft today.

Ann was born in Orange, New Jersey on July 20, 1922 to Herbert and Dorothy (Tomkins) Cawley of Short Hills, New Jersey. The family moved to New York City after her father's death when she was just 15 years old.

Ann attended two years at the University of Arizona and one semester at Harvard College, graduating from Finch College. She took secretarial courses in New York and worked until she was qualified for WASP training, learning to fly in the New York area.

After earning her private pilot license and the required 35 hours, Ann applied and was accepted into the WASP training program as a member of the class of 44-7, traveling to Sweetwater, Texas in March of 1944. After graduation, she was assigned to Stockton, California as part of the training command, where she ferried retired UC-78's.

After the WASP were deactivated, Ann met married H. Hayden O'Connor on June 18, 1948. The couple lived in Cazenovia in the 1940s and 1950s and again in the 1980s. They resided in Rye, NY, from 1952 to 1980. They spent 45 years together. Hayden passed away in 1993.

During her 87 years, Ann had a variety of colorful jobs, from working on a cattle ranch to testing ship models to administration of hospital-based home care. She enjoyed tennis, was a prize-winning floral arranger, an avid bridge player and traveled extensively. She was a member of Gamma Phi Beta Sorority, The Little Garden Club of Rye, the Malletts Bay Club in Vermont and the Cazenovia Club.

She was an elder of Cazenovia Presbyterian Church. She was also vice president of the board of the Friends of Lorenzo and an active volunteer in many organizations.

For the last several years of her life, Ann suffered from Meinere's disease--a condition she called 'bothersome' and 'a great indignity for a pilot.' Her good humor and her volunteer spirit no doubt inspired many whose lives she touched.

Ann is survived by her son, Hayden T. (Liz) O'Connor of Washington, CT, and their daughters, Sydney and Gillian; daughter, Sheila F. O'Connor, and son, John P. O'Connor, both of Syracuse.

A memorial service was held on Saturday, October 24, 2009, at 2:30 p.m. at the Cazenovia Presbyterian Church, 27 Albany Street, Cazenovia.

Contributions in memory of Ann C. O'Connor may be made to the American Hearing Research Foundation.

Respectfully submitted by Nancy Parrish, October 29, 2009
Based on information from Ann's entry in WASP Betty Turner's "Out of the Blue and Into History"
p. 456 and an online obit.

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