Friday, October 10, 2014

WASP Ruth Glaser Wright Gushe, 44-W-10 Oct. 4, 2014

"I have always felt that the WASP experience was the greatest achievement in my life and everything thereafter was anti-climatic!  ...I still look to the sky at any sound of aircraft, and remember the good old days..."   WASP Ruth Gushe' * 

Ruth Glaser Wright Guhsé passed away on October 4, 2014 in Athens, Georgia. Born Ruth Nydine Glaser on December 31, 1923 in Los Angeles, California, Ruth was a wife and mother of two children. She is survived by her son, David Wright of Athens, Georgia (wife Anette) and her daughter, Melinda Pomeroy of Portland, Oregon (husband Jeff) as well as three grandchildren (Solomon Weil, Ella Weil, and Jacqueline Wright) and two great grandchildren (Zidane Indarta and Raza Indarta).

Ruth had an early love of flying that developed because she lived near Clover Field in Santa Monica and Mines Field, which is now Los Angeles International. Part of her desire was, no doubt, due to publicity about Amelia Earhart and Charles Lindbergh. She eventually learned to fly with a group of women with whom she worked at North American Aviation. Because they were unable to fly on the coast they drove out to Baker, California after work on Fridays and returned on Sunday nights. She learned to fly in a 65 hp Porterfield and also took some time in a Meyers OTW, so as to familiarize herself with an open cockpit. After learning to fly she joined the Women's Airforce Service Pilots (WASP).

After all the tests and the physical, she was assigned to 44-10, the "Lost Last Class of Avenger Field." At Sweetwater, Texas, they received primary training in PT-17s and then transitioned to AT-6s.  She did instrument training in BT-13s and then flew AT-6s again for advanced and cross-country training. After graduation she was assigned to Aloe Army Air Field in Victoria, Texas, for tow-target duty and was there when the WASP were deactivacted.

After deactivation, Ruth was hired by Pan American Airlines as a stewardess and purser. She flew extensively across the Pacific to Hawaii, Fiji, New Zealand, Australia, Midway, Wake, Guam, Manila, Bangkok, Calcutta, Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Okinawa. In January of 1948 she married Jack Wesley Wright. They took over a flight school in West Sacramento-Capitol Sky Park, but within a couple of years, her husband was diagnosed with cancer. He passed away in 1961.

In 1956, she returned to work. She worked for 31 years as an office manager/financial manager in the construction and architectural fields. In 1964 she married F. Ross (Dick) Guhsé. They were married for 23 years; she was stepmother of Lynn, David and Laurel and step-grandmother to Jason Guhsé. Her husband Dick passed away in 1987, also from cancer.

In 1987 she started traveling, returning to Australia, New Zealand and Hong Kong. She also took tours to Kenya and Egypt, Indonesia and Bali, the Greek Isles, Ireland, China, South America, and Tahiti. With another former WASP, Emily Kline (44-1), she flew around the world in 1997. They started with Hong Kong for the Chinese take-over, then on to India and the Taj Mahal, London and the theater, and then back home.  She also attended many WASP reunions.

Ruth moved to a retirement community in La Jolla in 1999 where she could look out her balcony and watch the huge waves breaking onto the shore. In 2006 she moved to another retirement community in Portland, Oregon so as to be closer to her daughter. In 2009 she moved to Athens, Georgia to be close to her son and his family.

Ruth always felt that the WASP experience was the greatest achievement in her life and everything thereafter was anti-climactic! She made life-long friends there and over the years enjoyed using her computer to keep in close contact with her WASP friends. In 2010 she and the other WASP were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal. She also held membership in the Ninety-Nines and the Women Military Aviators. To the end she still looked to the sky at any sound of aircraft and remembered the good old days.

Ruth’s remains will be inurned at Arlington National Cemetery. Remembrances can be sent in the name of Ruth Glaser to the WASP Endowment.


Reposted with great respect by Wings Across America. 

* Quote from WASP Betty Turner's "Out of the Blue and Into History,"  p. 560  Aviatrix Publishing Inc., 2001

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Lorraine Marion Nelson Bain, 44-5 May 23, 2014

One Sunday afternoon the coyote hunters were giving airplane rides.  My brother and I...  were the first riders to go up. We were promised a good ride to attract a crowd.  We got our money's worth! 
                 WASP Lorraine Nelson Bain

Born  April 16, 1920 on the family homestead in Tampico, Montana. Lorraine Marion Nelson was the daughter of Nels Crist and Mary E. Nelson.  She was baptized and confirmed in the Lutheran Faith. She attended Buggy Creek grade school and graduated from Glasgow High School in 1937. 

Following high school, Lorraine went to work in a doctors office, saving money to go to nursing school.  Her primary  ambition was to be an airline stewardess, and requirements for stewardesses also included a nursing degree.    One Sunday afternoon, she was able to go for her first airplane ride.  Immediately, she was hooked on flying.  Eventually, she used all the money she had saved to take flying lessons.  She earned her private pilot certificate in Billings, Montana on August 6, 1941.

In 1944, Lorraine heard about the training program for women pilots and applied.  She passed all the requirements and was accepted into class 44-5.  Lorraine and 123 other young women pilots paid their own way to Sweetwater, Texas in December of 1943 to enter training.

After successfully completing seven months of Army Air Forces flight training, Lorraine and 71 of her classmates graduated, earned their silver WASP wings and were given their official Army orders.  Lorraine was sent to Pecos Army Air Base in Pecos, Texas, as a maintenance pilot for the the twin engine UC-78.

After the WASP were deactivated in December of 1944, Lorraine moved to Seattle, Washington and enrolled in the CAA Aircraft Communication Training course.  After passing the course, she was stationed in Gustavus, Alaska as aircraft communicator then transferred to CAA 8th Region, Anchorage, Alaska as a Link trainer instructor, where she worked until January of 1947.  From September  1948 to October 1949, she worked as a Link trainer instructor and assistant to the Chief Pilot for Alaska Airlines.

On February 3, 1950 she married James A. Bain, who was in the United States Air Force. Upon their retirement, Jim and Lorraine moved to a small farm outside of Chireno, Texas, where she volunteered for several organizations including a Nacogdoches Hospice; she also taught computer skills for SeniorNet. 

In 2010, Lorraine and her fellow WASP were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, highest civilian honor that Congress can bestow.  

Lorraine lived a wonderful and event filled life She will be greatly missed by all of her family and friends, for whom her passing marks the end of an era.   She passed away May 23, 2014 at age 94.  

She was preceded in death by her son Nelson Charles Bain in 1966. She is survived by her husband James A. Bain, Sr. of Woodstock, GA, sons, James A. Bain, Jr. of Midland, MI, William Joseph Bain (Kari) of Tulsa, OK, and Roger L. Bain (Sherry) of Muenster, TX and daughter, Mary F. McCoy (Michael) of Woodstock, GA. She is also survived by grandchildren, Austin, Wyatt, Matthew, Penny, Chuck and Pete and great-grandchildren, McKenna, Ryan and Melanie Lorraine and numerous nieces, nephews and cousins. 

A Funeral Service was held Wednesday, May 28, 2014 at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Woodstock, Pastor Paul Baumgartner and Pastor Justin Ask officiating. Iinterment at Ft. Douglas Military Cemetery.   Online condolences may be offered at www.woodstockfuneralhome.comIn lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Valley County Pioneer Museum, PO Box 44 Glasgow, MT 59230. 

God bless all of those whose lives were touched by this remarkable lady pilot.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Margaret 'Peggy' Werber Gilman, 44-W-10 May 29, 2014

Margaret Werber Gilman died May 29 at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset. She was 90.

Margaret Werber Gilman enjoyed a comfortable Great Neck youth with horseback riding and ski vacations, but she soon sought a new challenge.  She found it flying planes with the Women Airforce Service Pilots during World War II.

Gilman died May 29 at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset. She was 90.

In a statement, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who honored Gilman in 2010 when the female pilots, known as WASP, received Congressional Gold Medals, called Gilman "a pioneer who forged a new path for future women aviators here in New York and beyond. . . . Her legacy will continue to inspire generations of women."

Gilman's role as a female flier occurred after American pilots were in short supply in the war's early days. One answer was found in more than 1,000 women picked by Army Air Corps officers from a pool of 25,000 applicants. They were trained and assigned duties ranging from aircraft transport to aerial target towing.

Gilman was one of the last to enter the program before it was disbanded in December 1944, arriving for training at Avenger Field in Sweetwater, Texas, in May at the age of 20. She'd learned to fly not long before.

In Texas, "she would fly targets that the men would practice live fire on," said her daughter, Jane Gilman of Garden City. Sometimes their bullets missed the target, embedding with a ping in her aircraft.

By 1944, said Katherine Landdeck, a historian at Texas Woman's University and an authority on the WASPs, "American men were able to do the jobs women were doing. It was OK to have women releasing men for combat duty but not to have women replacing them."

Gilman married the veterinarian Manny Gilman, a pillar of American thoroughbred horse racing, and stayed home to raise their children. He died in 2011. 

WASP were not officially designated military veterans until 1977. Gilman felt the slight most when it came to the 38 comrades killed in wartime service. "She used to say how sad and pathetic it was that when the men died, they would ship coffins home to their families, treat them with such reverence," her daughter said. "And when women died they had to get together and get their own money to ship their bodies home to their families."

In a 2002 oral history now archived at Texas Woman's University, Gilman looked back on her service not with bitterness but satisfaction: "Learning to take orders and criticism and not explode, you know; I probably still don't like it. But I can cope with it. I can hang in there."

Besides her daughter, Gilman is survived by her son, Charles Gilman of Plandome. She lived most recently in North Hills.

Burial was on Monday at All Saints Episcopal Church in Great Neck with an Air Force Honor Guard in attendance. A flyover followed.

Originally published: June 5, 2014 8:07 PM
Updated: June 5, 2014 9:52 PM


Sunday, February 9, 2014

Florene Miller Watson, WAFS | February 4, 2014

During the years, I have been asked to give many, many WAFS- WASP WWII presentations ... been inducted into several prestigious "Hall of Fame" type honors an been featured in newspapers, books and magazine articles - but the bottom line for me is - "What does my Lord think of me!"  Florene Miller Watson, WAFS
Florene Miller Watson was born on December 7, l920 in San Angelo, Texas to Thomas L. and Flora Theis Miller. Her father was a watchmaker and owner of a jewelry store chain in the Odessa, Texas area. Florene became fascinated with planes when at the age of 8 she took her first airplane ride in a WWI Barnstormer’s open-cockpit plane at Big Lake. “My father and I shared our exhilaration for airplanes.” When she was a college sophomore, her father purchased a Luscombe airplane so his family could learn to fly. He anticipated the United States going to war with Germany and wanted his eldest children to contribute to the war effort as aviators. 

By age 19, Florene had finished flight school and completed her first solo flight. During the next 2 years, Florene obtained her commercial license, trained in aerobatics, and earned ground-school and flight instructor ratings. She was teaching civilian men enrolled in the government-sponsored War Training Program to fly in Odessa, Texas when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on her 21st birthday. Soon afterward she and her younger brother volunteered for service in the Army Air Corps. 

Florene was one of only 28 women who qualified for the original Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron (WAFS), later known as the Women Air Force Service Pilots (WASP). In January, 1943, Florene became Commanding Officer of the WASP stationed at Love Field, Dallas. In l944, she served as a test pilot in a highly secretive program to develop radar equipment for planes. By the time the war was over, Florene had flown every type of training, cargo, fighter, and twin and four-engine bomber that the Air Corps used including: Aeronea, Waco, Taylorcraft, Piper Cub, BT-13, PT-17, PT-19, AT-6, AT-9, AT-10, AT-11, AT-17, A-20, A-26, P-38, P-39, P-40, P-47, P-51, SB2C, C-47(DC-3), B-17, B-24, B-25, Lockheed P-38F Lightning and her favorite, the North American P-51D Mustang.

After the war, Florene married Chris Watson, her former flight-training student who was a Phillips Petroleum engineer. They raised two daughters while being frequently relocated by Phillips. Florene returned to college earning a BA at Lamar Tech University and a MBA at the University of Houston and then taught college for 30 years at the University of Houston, Howard College in Big Spring and Frank Phillips College in Borger. Florene was a member of Faith Covenant Church, belonged to many community organizations and did much volunteer work. She was also a National Flower judge, a swimming instructor, a real estate and insurance salesperson, a mutual fund representative and a test cook for Betty Crocker. 

Florene maintained close ties to aviation with memberships in the Texas Aviation Historical Society, the Ninety-Nines, the Air Force Association, the Commemorative Air Force, the Women’s Military Aviators and the Women’s Air Force Service Pilots WWII and others. She was featured in numerous newspapers, magazines and books with photos and write-ups and frequently interviewed for television programs plus video and audio histories for university archives and aviation museums. She was also featured in the nationally-broadcasted TV documentary Women of Courage explaining the role of WASP in WWII. Florene also served as national WASP chaplain for many years.

Some of her most cherished honors include the Distinguished Flying Corps Membership in the Kritser Aviation and Space Museum, Amarillo, TX, 1988; induction into theNinety-Nines International Forest of Friendship, Atichison, Kansas (Amelia Earhart’s home) for exceptional contributions to aviation, 1995; first woman inductee into the Panhandle Veterans Hall of Fame, August, 1996; “Distinguished Veteran” honoree at the Air Force Military Ball in Dallas, TX, 1997; the Daughters of the American Revolution’s highest honor--their National Medal of Honor, 2002; designation as an Eagle 4 separate times at the Air Force’s annual Gathering of Eagles celebration; the National Air Force Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award, 2004; induction into the Texas Aviation Hall of Fame, 2004; the renaming of the airport in her hometown of Big Lake, TX the Florene Miller Watson Airport, 2003; and most importantly in 2010 the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest award Congress can present to a civilian.

Florene was preceded in death by her husband of 68 years, G. Christie Watson, and two brothers, LaMonte Miller and Dolph Miller. She is survived by two daughters, Gail Smith and husband, Gerald of Silverton, TX and Jean Roark and husband, Lee of Woodway, TX; four grandchildren: Greg Sutphen of Houston, TX, Shelly Sutphen Garcia of Katy, TX, Chris Whittington of Englewood, CO and Clay Whittington of Denver, CO; two great grandchildren: Axton Whittington and Blake Garcia; and one sister, Garnette Erwin of Richardson, TX.

Florene lived her life cheerfully giving to others and always believing the best in everyone she met. She lived Mark 12:30, 31 . . . ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ . . .: 

Florene Miller Watson, 93, of Borger, Texas, died February 4, 2014. Celebration of Life services will be at 10:30 am Monday, February 10, 2014 at Faith Covenant Church in Borger with Pastor Les Sharp officiating and under the direction of Minton Chatwell Funeral Directors of Borger. The family will receive guests Sunday, February 9, 2014 from 5-7pm at the funeral home.
resource: Amarillo Globe News 
*Opening quote respectfully added from "Out of the Blue and Into History " by WASP Betty Turner  
The following added by  Wings Across America
Florene Watson was a truly iconic, one-of-a-kind WASP.  She had a brilliant smile and a magnetic personality.  She was equally at home when sharing her faith, offering a prayer, or sharing her fabulous stories of flying.  I've never met another person who could draw a crowd quicker than Florene, and she did it with such grace and humility.
In Sept. of 2000, we interviewed Florene as part of our Wings Across America project.   Our first meeting with her was at KACV PBS television studio on the Amarillo College campus in Amarillo, Texas.  She was radiant and ready.  Six and a half hours later, the TV studio manager gave her the keys to the studio and told her to lock up when we were finished.  Every hour was a delight, and by the time we were walking out the door, we knew we had made a life-long friend.  (She and mom kept talking all the way to the car.)
Over the next few years, we invited Florene to join us in our booth at several air shows.  She was always radiant as she patiently shook hands with the  crowds, signed  autographs and shared her stories.  
In 2003, we invited her to a black-tie affair at the Texas Museum of History in Austin, Texas,  commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Wright Brothers' flight.  I told her we would like her to help us 'draw a crowd,' so that we could share our vision for the National WASP WWII Museum we were creating at Avenger Field in Sweetwater.   She flew into Austin, hair beautifully coiffed, makeup perfect, and ready to go!  It was a wonderful evening.  With Florene's help, we drew quite a crowd.   
One of the most outstanding things I remember about Florene is that she  was at home wherever she was and made everyone around her feel welcome.  She visited us at our offices at Baylor, always proud of being a 'former Baylor student'.   She joked that if she hadn't been in love with flying, she would have graduated from Baylor.  Her father 'tempted' her to return home by offering to buy her an airplane, so she left Baylor after her sophomore year.  I'm proud we had that Baylor connection.  
When I produced "Soundbytes of the WASP" a few years ago, I took clips from many of the interviews we had done and edited them into a short video.   In looking through Florene's interview, there were many wonderful things to choose from, but I chose one that had her stamp of approval.  I share it now, hoping that Florene's voice of encouragement will echo in each of us:
"Do not undervalue your abilities. You have abilities that you haven't had a chance to use.  Now, find something you want to use them on and get after it!"
                  Respectfully written and posted by Nancy Parrish 

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Mary Alice Putnam Vandventer, 44-W-7 Jan. 28, 2014

"I thought they were crazy!  I thought I'd never learn all of this.  Going from a PT-17 Stearman that had no instruments and no starter or gears or anything to the AT-6-- it was just mind boggling.  I thought, "What are they doing!"  I LOVED THE AT-6!"  WASP Mary Alice Putnam, 44-W-7

WASP and Congressional Gold Medal recipient, Mary Alice Putnam Vandeventer, took final flight to a celestial destination, Tuesday, January 28, 2014; she was 90. 

Mary Alice was born a redhead in a West Texas sandstorm to Thomas Rogers and
Eunice (Smart) Putnam in their Lueders home on March 18, 1923. Reared in Lueders, the banker’s daughter daydreamed of movie stardom in news reels and flying machines like Amelia Earhart. Childhood summers at the
Putnam Ranch in Throckmorton County and at Eagle Nest, New Mexico, kindled her love of nature and travel.   In high school she played basketball, the trombone, jitter-bugged at Buttermilk Tavern in Anson, and took flying lessons from a crop duster at Stamford, TX. 

Graduating from Lueders High School in 1940, Mary attended SMU and 'earned her wings'  in college at a Love Field flight school in Dallas. She graduated from Texas State College for Women in Denton (now TWU), with BA in Speech and Theater—and high hopes of Broadway or the silver screen.

During WWII a Life Magazine cover story about the Women Airforce Service Pilots training at Sweetwater sent Tom Putnam and his daughter to Avenger Field to interview with Jacqueline Cochran, famed pilot and WASP Director.  Cochran waved the 21 age restriction for Mary, one month short, and Mary joined the class of 44-W-7. 

Nicknamed “Put-Put”, she was one of 1830 accepted from the 25,000 women applicants between 1943 and 1944, and only 1074 to complete the rigorous training to become the
first women to fly US military aircraft. Mary flew Stearman, AT6, PT19, UC-78 and C-45. 

After graduation, Mary was stationed at Eagle Pass Army Air Field and Moore Field on the Texas-Mexico Border, where she ferried planes and towed gunnery targets, until December 20, 1944, when WASP were disbanded by a thank you letter from General Hap Arnold, U.S. Army Air Force.  WASP  hitch-hiked and paid their own way home. Their records were sealed and unavailable to historians until the Freedom of Information Act Amendments of 1996. By then half the fly-girls were deceased.   WASP received  military status by Congressional Act in 1977 and a Congressional Gold Medal on March 10, 2010 in Washington DC.

After the war ended, Mary traveled across California with sister Maurese Vinson
and taught briefly at Lueders before acceptance to The American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City in the spring of  1946. Off to the Big Apple during the hey-day of Broadway Musicals–South Pacific, Guys & Dolls, and George Gershwin’s Porgy &
Bess.   She returned to Texas and joined American Airlines in Dallas 1948-52.  No, not as a pilot. Women were still prohibited from piloting commercial aircraft. Disappointed, Mary declined being a “a glorified waitress on a flying’ bus” and was a reservationist rooming with two “stews” in Dallas.

In 1951 she married Bob Vandeventer of WBAP radio in Dallas. An ABC Radio newsman during the war with Paul Harvey in St. Louis, Bob became News Director for WFAA-TV, the first television in Dallas. They had two daughters, Teresa and Sheri.

In 1965 Mary returned to Lueders with her tween girls and updated teaching credentials at Abilene colleges. She taught 6th through 8th grade English and History, coached Jr. High Basketball, and settled on 5th Grade, before she taught High School Drama for UIL Competition. Her theater students went to State one year. In 1979 she was recognized as
the Memorable Teacher and retired in 1983 to serve on school board several years. 

Mary reconnected with fly-girl pals at WASP Reunions and global tours—she explored Africa and traveled five continents—and told the WASP story as an advisory board member of the National WWII WASP Museum at Sweetwater. She served as “the local WASP.”

Mary, Veteran's Day, 2009
In 2010 the City of Lueders changed her address to Vandeventer Street in honor of her Congressional Medal.  Locally, Mary was Secretary of the American Legion Post in Lueders for many years, and was a lifetime member of the National WASP WWII Museum in Sweetwater.   She was active in her church, Methodist Northwest Council, and lived independently in the home where she was born until November 2013. She deeply loved numerous cats and one dog that didn’t “talk back”.

She is survived and missed by many: daughters Teresa Dominy of Potosi TX, and Sheri Vandeventer (husband Dave Seltenrich) of Valley Center, CA; grand-daughters Joni Dominy McKinnon (Rich McKinnon), Julia Mills Watkins (David Watkins); five great grandchildren Kaitlyn Bone, Kyler Bone, Corbyn Mills, Alora Mills, and Keelan McKinnon, two nieces and two nephews and numerous Putnam cousins from Albany and across the state. 

Services were held Saturday, February 1st, in the Lueders Methodist Church in Lueders, TX (visitation 10 – 11 am; funeral service 11 am), followed by graveside services and military honor guard at Throckmorton Cemetery at 2:00 pm under the direction of Tankersley Funeral Home of Stamford.  Pall bearers were Sam Vinson, Jerry Shiever, Dave Seltenrich, Sandy Davis, John Putnam and Robert Putnam.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the National WASP WWII Museum, 210 Avenger Field Rd, PO Box 456, Sweetwater, TX 79556 or online at

Written by Publicist and Daughter of WASP, Mary Putnam Vandeventer,
Teresa V. Dominy

No rights reserved.

photos/links/quote respectfully added by Wings Across America


I first met Mary in September, 2000, when she graciously welcomed us into her home in Lueders, Texas.   We were so honored to record her story in the home where she was born.  100 percent Texas lady with gentle, low voice and an easy laugh.  Her journey from a small West Texas town to become a WASP and eventually study at the National Academy of Dramatic Art was inspiring.    

I can only imagine how blessed the young students in Lueders were, when she returned to her hometown and shared her world of experiences with them.  

God bless her beautiful family.