Thursday, March 29, 2012


WASP Catherine Ann Murphy passed away on Sunday, January 29, 2012.

Catherine was born on December 8, 1916, to Edward and Catherine Murphy, in St. Paul, Minn.  She graduated from high school in Minneapolis and immediately went to work.    In the fall of 1942, she went flying for the first time with an instructor named Hank, and from that moment on, she was  obsessed with flying.    She soled in 7 1/2 hours off a grass strip,  and as she continued flying, she learned of the Army Air Forces flying training program.  She applied,  and when she was accepted into the class of 44-W-1, she paid her way to Avenger Field to learn to fly 'The Army Way."

After successfully completing the seven months of training, on February 11, 1944, Catherine and 48 other young women pilots from her class (of 101) graduated .  Her class was the first  to graduate wearing the official 'Santiago Blue' WASP uniform.

Catherine's official Army Air Force orders sent her to Gardner Field, California, where she flew as an engineering test pilot.  From Gardner, she was sent to Randolph Field, San Antonio, Texas, where she completed basic instructor training.  She returned to Gardner as a basic training flight instructor and ferry pilot.  She remained at Gardner until the WASP were disbanded.

After her service as a WASP,  she was  hired as an instructor at Western and Compton Airports, California.  She sold her '42 Buick, bought a Stinson SR-5, and began a charter service, flying passengers from Los Angeles to Albuquerque,  and Kansas City to Minneapolis.  Eventually, she sold her Stinson and went to work for the City of San Gabriel Valley, California as City Treasurer. 

Catherine organized the California Municipal Treasurers Association,  which eventually grew to become the Municipal Treasurers Association of the US and Canada, and was also a director on the Board of the League of California Cities.  She eventually became  City Treasurer and Chief financial officer for the city of Arcadia, Calif., where she worked for 27 years.

In 1972,  Catherine rekindled her love of flying, flying a Piper Arrow to the WASP Reunion in Sweetwater, Texas.  From that flight, she renewed old WASP friendships and ‘took to the skies’,  flying to WASP reunions and spending vacations flying in Arizona, Colorado,  and even Alaska.

In 1979,  she joined the Civil Air Patrol (CAP)and became a Mission Pilot, flying search and rescue missions.  She later went on to become Squadron Commander and Finance Officer for the California Wing of the CAP and Mission Coordinator/Mission Control Officer.  During her active duty time with the CAP,  she was the designated person for the Air Force to contact to organize all search missions in the State of California.  She searched for missing aircraft, flew cadets on orientation rides, transported emergency services personnel, transported dog teams for missing persons searches,  and flew missions for the Customs Services and Drug Enforcements.

From 1984 to 1986, Catherine served as  Treasurer of the National WASP organization. Her proudest accomplishment was transferring all the WASP records from paper to computer.  She remained vigilant, making sure newsletters,  and records,  and the official WASP Roster was current and accurate.

Catherine met the stiff requirements  for the UFO's,  "United Flying Octogenarians."   (Current FAA physical, current biennial and a solo flight after turning 80)  She spent her last few years volunteering with AARP, doing income taxes for the elderly and volunteering for the Community Service Unit.  In 2005,  she moved to Jacksonville, Oregon.

Catherine was preceded in death by her parents, Catherine and Edward Murphy; brothers, Edward Murphy, and Roderick Murphy; and sister, Marquerite Veady. She is survived by her sisters, Patricia M. Paulsen, of Mariposa, Calif., and Fidelis Powers, of Sweetser, Ind.; also numerous nieces and nephews.

Mass of Christian Burial will be held on Saturday, February 4, 2012, at St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Jacksonville, Ore., at noon.                 


Catherine Murphy was a 'doer'.  She was always involved, busy, and willing to work hard to make a difference.  She used her talents for finance and  flying-- for leadership and service.  What a legacy for such an  extraordinary woman-- a WASP of WWII!

God bless her family and all those whose lives she touched. 

“Fly high, Catherine...and rest well.”

Respectfully written by Nancy Parrish

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