Mary Belle Ahlstrom Smith, 91, of Austin, Texas, died on Friday, June 15, 2012, after an extended illness.
She was born on January 23, 1921 in La Crosse, Wisconsin, to Judge Roy Victor Ahlstrom and Margaret Kruegar Ahlstrom.
After graduating from high school, Mary Belle entered the University of Wisconsin, later graduating with a degree in Chemistry.
In January of 1942, with her private pilot license in hand and 75+ hours of qualified flying time in her log book, Mary Belle applied for the experimental Army Air Forces flying training program for women. After passing the required tests and a personal interview with Jacqueline Cochran, Mary and fifty-seven other young women pilots entered the WASP training program as members of the third class. Mary and 37 of her classmates successfully completed the program and earned their WASP Wings.
After graduation, Mary Belle was sent to Romulous Army Air Force Base, Romulous, Michigan, where she was assigned as a ferry pilot, 3rd Ferrying Group, Air Transport Command. Her second assignment was to Napier Army Air Base in Dothan, Alabama as part of the Southeastern Training Command. At Napier, assignments ranged from engineering test pilot to administrative pilot to instrument instructor in AT-6's. PT-17's and AT-6's were also ferried from Napier.
Mary Belle and Leonard A. Smith were married shortly after the WASP were deactivated, and began their life together, eventually raising three sons. Mary Belle retired in 1981 from the State of Texas' Austin State Hospital as a Medical Technologist.
Mary Belle is survived by her children, Stephen L. Smith of Houston, David A. Smith and wife Sandra of Big Spring, and Daniel V. Smith and wife Linda of Bastrop; grandchildren, Ashley, Matthew, Rachael, Edward, and Jared Smith; one great-grandchild; brother, Randall Ahlstrom of Middleton, WI; sister, Carol Ahlstrom Wessler of Brookfield, WI; and numerous nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by her parents, and her husband, Leonard A. Smith. She was an active member of Hyde Park Baptist Church.
Graveside services will be held at 10:00 a.m. on Thursday, June 21, 2012 at Austin Memorial Park, 2800 Hancock Dr.
Respectfully edited and expanded with photos added by Wings Across America.