Friday, June 11, 2010

WASP Irene McConihay Leahy, 44-W-6

WASP Irene McConihay Leahy of Pelican Bay,  Daytona Beach, Florida passed away in the early morning hours of Monday, March 29, 2010.

This notification marks the passing of another beautiful WASP, one  whom I was never privileged to meet, but whose life and service to our country was a priceless gift to every American.  For her gift, we are all grateful.


Irene McConihay Leahy was born on March 2, 1918 in Charleston, West Virginia to John and Irene McConihay. She learned to fly in a seaplane on the Kanawha River.  Because the school was next to a bridge, Irene learned to fly under the bridge, both for landings and take offs.  After earning her private pilot's license, she kept flying and applied for the WASP' flying training program.  

She received notification that she must have a personal interview with an official of the WASP organization before she could be accepted into the program.    After driving all night for an 8am appointment, Irene and 2 other female pilots were interviewed at Lockbourne AFB in Ohio.  (She reported 'drinking carrot juice' all night, so that they would all pass the eye test.)  After completing all the other prerequisites for admission, they were all  accepted into the training program.

Once she was notified that she had been accepted, Irene paid her way to Avenger Field, Sweetwater, Texas, where she raised her right hand, took the military oath and, along with 135 other young women pilots, became a trainee in WASP class 44-W-6.  Over the next seven months,   she trained in  PT-17's, BT-13's, and the AT-6 North American "Texan", at the same time taking ground school courses,  which included learning to 'fly' the Link trainer.    On August 4, 1944,  she and 71 other young women pilots  graduated and received their silver WASP wings.

Irene's  Army Air Force orders sent her to Shaw AFB, Sumter, South Carolina to the 2142nd AFBU (Air Force Base Unit).  Shaw AFB was a basic (BT-13) modification center, where the WASP flew as engineering test pilots, ferry pilots and as instrument instructors.

After the WASP were disbanded in December of 1944, Irene never flew as a pilot again.  She began a career in secretarial and administrative work that she continued until her retirement.

In 1947 she met and married David Leahy, the love of her life.   She dedicated 30 years as an Executive Secretary with the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry of the United States and Canada, in Washington D.C.

She and her husband moved to the Daytona Beach area from their home in Silver Springs, MD, in 1985, where, as members of the Pelican Bay Country Club,  Irene enjoyed playing bridge and was an avid golfer, playing in many golf tournaments in the area.

On April 1, 2010, a  memorial service was held at the Daytona Chapel of the Lohman Funeral Home, followed by interment at Daytona Memorial Park.

Irene leaves behind her only survivor--her devoted husband of 63 years, David E. Leahy.

To Irene's husband, David:  'Our prayers for God's comfort.'

God bless you all,

Respectfully submitted by nancy parrish
(Parts of this post are taken from a short online notice of Irene's death, "On Final Approach" by WASP Byrd Howell Granger,  and "Out of the Blue and Into History" by WASP Betty Turner.)

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