Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Barby Anna Parrish Williams, WASP Champion | Nov. 13, 2015

“I encourage you to not let a moment pass that you don’t find joy in your day.”  
Barby Williams      
Since the day she was born, Barby Anna Parrish Williams not only found joy in every day, she created it for so many others in so many unforgettable ways.   Although not a WASP, she has more than earned a place of honor here on the pages of WASP Final Flight.   She was a true WASP Champion, my only sister — the youngest daughter of WASP Deanie Bishop Parrish.

Barby was a passionate visionary, a mountain mover and a world-class encourager.  Because of her enthusiastic support seventeen years ago, Wings Across America was able to truly take flight.   Over the past few decades, despite her own busy life, family and career, her enthusiasm and support never wavered. Many who have attended Oshkosh, a WASP Convention, the WASP Museum opening, the Fly Girls Exhibit opening at the Women’s Memorial, the Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony, or countless other events might just remember Barby.  She was as beautiful inside as she was outside, with a warm, gracious smile and an endearing sense of humor.  She was the first to extend a hand and make a stranger feel welcome.

Barby was an extraordinary gift from the first time I met her, 61 years ago last January.  Mom placed her in my lap on the way home from the hospital, but God really kept her in the palm of His hand all her life.   She made the most of every single moment.   She had a passion for her faith, her family and a heart for service.  She made time for what was truly important and she made a difference in the lives of those she touched. 

Respectfully, this posting is in memory of my sister, Barby, who was welcomed into Heaven on November 13, 2015.  

On January 8, 1954, at Tokyo General Hospital, Japan, a beautiful, blonde, blue-eyed baby girl was born to Air Force Captain William A. and Deanie Bishop Parrish.    The couple named her “Barby" after a family friend, and "Anna" after her maternal grandmother. 

In 1955, now Major Bill Parrish  was transferred to West Palm Beach, Florida and just one year later, to McGuire AFB, New Jersey.   In 1960, Bill was transferred to Maxwell Air Force Base, Montgomery, Alabama,  where Barby started kindergarten. 

Nine months later, when Bill was transferred to Ellington Air Force Base, Barby started her formal schooling in Houston, Texas. After graduating with honors from Houston's Milby High School, she moved to Waco in the Fall of 1971 to attend Baylor University.

She began her college career as a music education major, and soon became an active Athenian (now Kappa Kappa Gamma).  She made life-long friends, was honored as a Baylor Beauty, and met the love of her life, Dale Williams.   In 1975, after graduation, Barby and Dale married and began their incredible 40-year journey together.   As a newlywed, she taught 5th and 6th graders music in Bosqueville while Dale attended Baylor Law School.

The young couple was blessed with two children, Brady and Brook. Barby treasured family, and her proudest accomplishments were her children and grandchildren. Barby was a co-founder of Waco Baptist Academy and served as President of the Board.   The school presents the Barby Williams “Faithful Servant Award” and scholarship each year to the student most deserving. She founded and taught a women’s Sunday School class at Columbus Avenue Baptist Church for many years, as well as founded 1st Call to Prayer at Baylor University. 

Barby enjoyed many summers with family in Colorado, where her love for the mountains and horseback riding began. She cherished family vacations, especially trips to Disney World with her children and grandchildren.

As the owner of Roots Boutique in downtown Waco, Barby passionately served her customers and mentored her beloved employees. Her creative talent and effortless eye for fashion were on full display as she ran the top clothing boutique in town.

A steadfast optimist, Barby’s inner strength and contagious confidence created a desire in each of us to be the best possible version of ourselves. All who knew her witnessed her faith in Christ, her resolute kindness, her persistent joy and tenacious selflessness. Above all, her deepest desire was to serve the Lord through serving others.

She was preceded in death by her father, Lt. Col. William A. Parrish.

Left to honor her memory are her husband, Dale Williams, Waco; son, Brady Williams, and wife, Kim, of Newport Beach, California; daughter, Brook Henry, and husband, Michael, of Dallas; mother, Deanie Parrish, Waco; sister, Nancy Parrish, Waco; and grandchildren, Logan Henry, Jonah Henry, and Charley Williams.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to the Barby Williams “Faithful Servant Award” and Scholarship at Waco Baptist Academy

A service to celebrate her life was held at 10:00 a.m., Thursday, November 19, at Seventh and James Baptist Church with the Rev. Steve Childers officiating. The service was followed by a reception at the Bill Daniels Student Union Building on Baylor Campus.


Personal note.  

My youger sister was and always will be, my hero. She faced life-threatening challenges with a quiet, gentle grace,  a beautiful smile, a sweet spirit and an ever-hopeful determination.  Though it all, she continued to lean on His everlasting arms.  'The Lord is my strength, my personal bravery, and my invincible army!'  Habakuk 3:17

She was determined to continue spreading joy by making unforgettable memories with her family.   She did.  She was lifted each day by her own steadfast faith and optimism.  She was courageous and she was, without a doubt, absolutely inspirational.

Today, we are at peace, missing her terribly, but knowing that she celebrated this Christmas with her savior, our dad and grandparents and so many others we have said goodbye to over the years.  Yes, too young.  Yes, too soon.  Only God knows the bigger picture.   What He has left me with, personally, is a peace I can't explain and a joyful gratitude for her being a part of my life. 

I will miss her every single day until I see her again... and every time I hear gentle laughter or see a child's face light up with joy, every time I see someone take an extra moment to be kind or encouraging or make the effort to create an extra special moment, I will think of her.  She was greatly blessed, highly favored and used her remarkable gifts to joyfully lift and challenge us all to fly higher in everything we do.   

"Therefore we do not lose heart.Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."  2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Finally, a passage that is featured in Randy Alcorn’s book, “In Light of Eternity,”   which played a significant part in Barby’s knowledge of and delight in her eternal home.

I’m standing on the seashore. A ship at my side spreads her white sails to the morning breeze and starts for the blue ocean. She’s an object of beauty and strength and I stand and watch her until, at length, she hangs like a speck of white cloud just where the sea and the sky come down to mingle with each other. And then I hear someone at my side saying, “There, she’s gone.”

Gone where? Gone from my sight, that is all. She is just as large in mast and hull and spar as she was when she left my side. And just as able to bear her load of living freight to the place of destination. Her diminished size is in me, not in her.

And just at the moment when someone at my side says, “There, she is gone” there are other eyes watching her coming, and there are other voices ready to take up the glad shout, “Here she comes!”     Henry Van Dyke

Until I see her again,  I rest in His promises and am bathed in His peace.  I pray that same peace for you and yours.  God bless you all.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Betty June "BeeJay" Overman Brown, 44-W-7 Dec. 12, 2015

"Follow your dreams!  You're capable of doing it, if you want it hard enough. You can do it!"  B.J. Brown*
WILDER, Vt. — Betty Brown died peacefully Saturday morning, Dec. 12, 2015, at Valley Terrace in Wilder. She was 92.

Betty was born in Atalissa, Iowa, on June 18, 1923, to Charles and Nelle Metzinger Overman. She had two older sisters, Bonita and Janice, and an older brother, Robert. When Betty was 2 months old, the family moved to Detroit, and later, to Rosedale Gardens in Plymouth, Mich. Her family spent time during the summer at the nearby Bishop Lake, where she developed a lifelong love of the outdoors.

Betty attended schools in Detroit and Plymouth, where she was an honors student, captain of the swim team and played the lead in the senior class play. As a member of Rosedale Gardens Presbyterian Church, she was a choir member and Sunday school teacher.
She was accepted at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, but instead chose to work for Burroughs Adding Machine, and later, for Detroit Diesel in the payroll department. During this time, she became interested in flying, began taking lessons and, on April 24, 1943, soloed a 65-horsepower Taylorcraft. Shortly afterward, she and a friend bought a small plane together.

After seeing the July 19, 1943, issue of Life Magazine featuring a female Air Force pilot on the cover, Betty applied to the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) program and was accepted. She reported to Avenger Field in Sweetwater, Texas, in February 1944. On Sept. 8, she received her wings and reported for duty at Aloe Field, where she towed targets for aerial gunnery practice, flying a 600-horsepower AT-6. The sisterhood of the WASP remained very important to Betty for the rest of her life.

After the war, Betty moved to Florida, where she met her husband-to-be, Ron Brown. They were married in December 1948 and enjoyed more than 65 years together. They lived first in Denver, and later, in Chevy Chase, Md., raising a daughter, Kathy, and two sons, Rod and Tyler. During this time, Betty and Ron grew to be avid whitewater canoeists, spending vacations canoe-camping all along the eastern seaboard, but especially in the deep woods of northern Maine on the Saint John, Allagash and Penobscot Rivers.

In the fall of 1970, Betty and Ron bought a small camp without electricity or running water on Gilman Pond in North New Portland, Maine. The following August, after the first expansion of the camp, Betty suggested they move there permanently with son Tyler. This became their home for the next 38 years, and they used it as a home base for exploring whitewater throughout the Maine wilderness, including the Allagash River, which Betty solo canoed.

During these years, Betty was busy with the community, serving on the town planning board, as well as the school committee, and as chairman of the Maine State Critical Areas Advisory Board. When husband Ron retired in 1983, they bought a 1958 PA-18 Piper Cub together. Betty renewed her pilot’s license, and she and Ron flew all over the country, especially enjoying the fly-ins at Sun and Fun in Florida, and the EAA fly-in in Oshkosh, Wis.

In 1977, President Jimmy Carter awarded the WASP full military status and, in 2010, Betty traveled to Washington, D.C., with about 175 surviving WASP — and her entire family — to accept the Congressional Gold Medal for their service during World War II.

BJ Brown, Wings AA Interview*
In recent years, Betty and Ron moved to an apartment in Skowhegan, Maine, and then to Lebanon, N.H., where they were closer to son Tyler. After Ron passed away in July 2014, Betty moved to Valley Terrace in Wilder, where she made many friends among residents and staff.
Betty was a dynamic and independent woman who lived life to the fullest. She loved the outdoors and was never happier than when camping with her husband, Ron. She treasured close friends and her family above all else, and carried a smile with her at all times.

Betty passed away after a battle with congestive heart failure but not before meeting her newest great-granddaughter as her family gathered around her. Daughter, Kathy Brown, Boonsboro, Md., survives her, as well as sons, Rod Brown, Silver Spring, Md., and Tyler Brown, East Thetford, Vt.; grandsons, Sean Walsh and Kevin Roy; and three amazing great-granddaughters, Mia and Zoe Walsh, and Emilia Roy.

Plans are being made for a springtime service in Maine. In lieu of flowers, donations in Betty’s name may be made to Alice Peck Day Memorial Hospital, 10 Alice Peck Day Drive, Lebanon, NH, or to Texas Woman’s University, WASP Archive, P.O. Box 425528, Denton, TX 76204-5528.

To view an online memorial and/or send a message of condolence to the family, please visit


respectfully reposted from the Muscatine Journal.

*quote and photo from Wings Across America's interview with BJ.


Personal note:  B.J. Brown was a delightful, optimistic, energetic, wonderful WASP.  She welcomed us into her Sun City, Arizona home, and over the course of 3 hours, charmed us with her adventures. She shared her passionate love for the woods and rivers of Maine, and her deep love of her family.   When asked what got her through the tough times in her life, Betty answered simply, "prayer...and time...and facing things squarely."  Simple, to the point, that was B.J.

 We were honored to call her friend and so blessed to have known her.

Our prayers for her family and all of those who were touched by this loving lady pilot.
God bless you all.

Nancy Parrish, Wings Across America

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Mildred Evelyn Eckert Carder, 44-W-7 | Nov. 25, 2015

mildred carder
Mildred Evelyn Eckert Carder, 94, died peacefully in her sleep on November 25, 2015 at Patriots Colony in Williamsburg, Virginia.

 Born July 31, 1921 in Mason, Texas, she is predeceased by her parents, Kinney and Zilla (Wood) Eckert of Mason, Texas and her husband, John Thomas Carder of Johnson City, Tennessee.
In 1942, Mildred graduated from the University of Texas with not only a Bachelor of Arts degree but also a private pilot’s license. Her love of flying led to a position as a Link instructor, teaching instrument flying to Navy cadets at the U.S. Naval Air Station in Corpus Christi, Texas, followed by selection for the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) training program at Avenger Field, Sweetwater, Texas.  

*On September 8, 1944, Mildred and 58 of her classmates were awarded their WASP wings.  Following graduation, she was assigned to Stuttgart Army Air Base in Stuttgart, Arkansas. WASP at this twin engine training base flew AT-10's, AT-6/s, UC-78's and UC-64's.  Mildred was assigned to operations, where she flew weather hops, engineering check flights, utility hops and grave yard shifts to pick up pilots taking planes to storage.  
After WWII, marriage, children, and traveling the world with her Air Force husband, the family moved to Jonesborough, Tennessee in 1963 where Mildred resumed her teaching career. She earned a Master of Arts degree from East Tennessee State University in 1973 and retired from the Washington County, Tennessee school system in 1984. Mildred loved to travel and read, never losing her enthusiasm for adventure and learning.
Mildred was a member of Delta Kappa Gamma Society International, Phi Delta Kappa educational fraternity, Alpha Omicron Pi sorority, the Order of Daedalians association of military pilots, and the Williamsburg United Methodist Church.
Survivors include her two sons, Patrick Carder (Sandra) of Williamsburg, Virginia, and Kinney Carder (Virginia) of Leesburg, Georgia; three grandchildren: Charles Jonathan Carder (Joy) of Williamsburg, Virginia, John Clinton Carder (Margie), and Courtney Leigh Carder Paulson (Dan) of Leesburg, Georgia.
Mildred’s six great-grandchildren of whom she was so proud are Olivia Grace and Charles Jonathan, Jr. (Jack) Carder of Williamsburg, John Griffin and Talley Grace Carder of Leesburg, and Makenna Elise Fisher and Connor Daniel Paulson also from Leesburg.

A Celebration of Life will be held at Patriots Colony, 6200 Patriots Colony Dr., Williamsburg, VA, at 3 p.m. Thursday, December 3, 2015. Graveside services will take place at 10 a.m. Monday, December 21, 2015, at Mountain Home Veterans Cemetery in Johnson City, Tennessee.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorials be made to the Wounded Warrior Project.
Please leave online condolences for the family at Nelsen Funeral Home.
respectfully reposted
Nancy Parrish

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Margaret Phelan Taylor, 44-W-5 | July 1, 2015

"I learned to fly to be able to join the WASP...and had to stand up really tall to qualify for the height measurement of 5' 2 ½."  
                        /s/ Margaret Phelan Taylor

The daughter of Budd and Mary PhelanMargaret was born in a pioneer log cabin on her parents' farm outside Emmetsburg, Iowaon September 201923.

At a very early age, Margaret taught herself to readWhen she had read all of the books on the children 's shelf at the local public library, she talked her mother into surreptitiously checking out adult fiction for her. 

After graduating from St. Mary's Academy in Emmetsburg in 1940, she attended Clarke College in Dubuque, Iowa, for two years, before going to Burbank California to work as a draftsman for Vega Aircraft Corporation a defense plant.

Margaret learned to fly so that she could apply to join the women pilot training program. She applied after receiving her private pilot license and completing the required 35 hours.  

In 1943following a personal interview and an Army physical, she was accepted into class 44-W-5, traveling to West Texas during one of the coldest winters on record, arriving at Avenger Field in mid December. 

After completing 7 months of AAF flight training, Margaret graduated and was sent to Stockton Air Force Base, California.  She flew as an engineering text pilot, checking out overhauled twin-engine UC 78's so that they passed inspections for the cadets to fly.   She also ferried war weary planes to Texas and to the Arizona desert.

The WASP were disbanded in December of 1944, and in February of 1945,  Margaret married Jim Tayloran Army Air Corps pilot she had met at Stockton Field.

Following the birth of their son, Clif, and daughter, Merridee, she returned to college, earning her B.Adegree in Education from San Francisco State College in 1954. She worked as an elementary school teacher following graduation.

In 1955 Margaret and Jim moved to Palo Alto, where she later worked at Stanford Bookstore. Margaret and Jim traveled extensively visiting South America, Europe, Russia, Australia and the Far East. She and Jim celebrated fifty years of marriage in 1995. All the while Margaret continued to read voraciously, and was an accomplished cook, seamstress, and  knitter as well.

Jim died in 2006. 

In 2010, Margaret , along with other members of the W.A.S.P. were invited to Washington, D. C. and awarded the Congressional Gold Medal for their service during World War II.

Margaret passed away on July 1, two days after suffering a massive brain hemorrhage at home.   She is survived by her children, Clif (Jane) and Merridee Taylor, her ''darling '' grandsons Jamie (Holley) and Daniel (Lisa), her great granddaughter, Sophia Margaret her sisters, Helen Augustine and Kay Pitcherand various nieces and nephews.

Of all the passions Margaret displayed, none was more special than her gift for reading.  She shared it with others all her life, and continues to inspire us all today.

"My real specialty is reading.  I have been a bookworm all my life, and I am still at it.  Three of four books a week.  I hope my eyes will hold to the end."

Her legacy of service lives on through her family and all of those lives were  touched by this special WASP.  

God bless you all,

Respectfully posted by Nancy Parrish from the official obituary-- edited for the Final Flight pages with WASP information added for accuracy.  *Quote from "Out of the Blue and Into History" in Margaret's own words (p. 392).  Book edited by WASP Betty Turner.   Photo from Wings Across America.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Virginia Lee Jowell Hagerstrom, 43-W-4 | May 28, 2015

"Outside my family and my husband, the WASP program was the greatest thing that ever happened to me.  I wanted to fly…. I loved it.   If you know what you want to do, don’t let anybody stop you.  You can do it!” *  
                                      Lee Hagerstrom, 43-W-4 

Virginia Lee Jowell Hagerstrom (Class of 43-W-4) was born December 12, 1920 in the small East Texas town of Frankston. She excelled in school and had her heart set on going to college, even though it was the middle of the depression. She managed two years at Lon Morris, a small Methodist college in nearby Jacksonville, by literally singing her way through in a small band that toured the state on weekends and holidays. She then transferred to Stephen F. Austin State Teachers College in Nacogdoches where she graduated with a major in English and a Spanish minor. While there she participated in the Civilian Pilot Training Program and after graduation went to work for Delta Air Lines in Atlanta as a ticketing agent. When the WASPs were organized, she applied and was accepted.

During her time at Avenger Field in Sweetwater she made friendships that lasted her entire life. She was still a WASP when she met her future husband, James P. Hagerstrom -- fresh back from his combat tour in New Guinea. They were both Army Air Force pilots passing through Orlando, Florida. He proposed three weeks later and they were married at Romulus Army Air Base, Michigan, where Lee was stationed, with a fellow 43-W-4 classmate Grace Clark Fender as maid-of-honor.

The couple settled in Houston and Lee taught school until the birth of her third child. With the outbreak of the Korean War her husband was recalled to active duty and he again flew combat missions (he became a double fighter ace, as he was also an ace in WWII). The fifties hosted the birth of five more children, and postings in Virginia, North Carolina, Texas, Japan, and Hawaii. The sixties were spent in Southern California where Lee returned to teaching and her husband attended law school at night while finishing out his Air Force career, including a tour in Vietnam and Thailand.

In the seventies the family began a series of adventures on sailing yachts, even building one from the keel up. They sailed down the coast of Mexico, to Hawaii, and to Micronesia. The eighties first saw Lee and James in the Dominican Republic, and then back in Micronesia where Lee taught at the college and James was legal advisor for the local government.

In the early nineties the couple moved to a small town in northern Louisiana, where they spent their time gardening and enjoying visits from family. After the death of her husband in 1994, Lee lived with one or another of her children in San Francisco, Korea, Burma, Mexico, Maryland, and Texas. Her last years were spent near family on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. She died there, peacefully, on the morning of May 28, 2015.

A funeral service is planned for September. She will be buried, as WASP Lee Jowell Hagerstrom, with her husband in Arlington National Cemetery.


Respectfully posted by Lee's family.  

*. Quote from Lee's interview with Wings Across America.

Personal note.
Meeting Lee Hagerstrom was a wonderful, unexpected blessing, as we walked into the WASP tent at Oshkosh in 2003. Lee was delightful, charming, energetic and warm and delighted to meet 2 fellow Texans.  

Our second meeting with Lee was in Rio Rocco, Arizona. We turned on the video camera and were mesmerized by her stories and her enthusiasm for many hours. We will never forget her kindness and the beautiful sparkle her eyes when she talked about her family and about flying.

God bless all those whose lives were touched by this amazing WASP.

-- Nancy Parrish, Wings Across America

WASP Dorothy P. Hoover, 43-W-6 | March 15, 2015

Buncombe County native Dorothy “Dot” Post Hoover, 98, was buried in Asheville following her death on March 15. She was a genuine American trailblazer and hero. Those are not titles she would have likely embraced or even wanted, but still fitting ones for someone like her all the same. For as a member of the Women Airforce Service Pilots, better known by their acronym WASP, she did things that no American woman had ever done before her.

The WASP was a group of bright, ambitious young women who, at the outbreak of the Second World War, were looking for a way to serve their country. In 1941 two of America’s most famous women pilots, Jacqueline Cochran and Nancy Harkess Love, submitted proposals to the U.S. Army Air Forces under the command of Gen. Henry “Hap” Arnold to create an all-female non-combat flying unit, the main task of which would be to ferry aircraft and materials to and from various military bases and other locations, as well as serve in other capacities such as towing military gliders and aerial targets for use in gunnery training. Such a unit would free male pilots to go overseas.
From Cochran’s and Love’s efforts was born the Women’s Flying Training Detachment (WFTD) and the Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron (WAFS); the two groups eventually merged under the single title of the Women Airforce Service Pilots. 25,000 women reportedly applied to become pilots but only 1,830 were accepted and 1,074 graduated. Training was rigorous and long, with demanding in-flight training. Following graduation, the new WASP recruits leaped into their professional roles with full-throttle gusto. By the time the group was disbanded in 1944, it had flown over 60 million operational miles from various locations around the nation and the world. During this time they flew nearly every type of military aircraft in existence, from the big bombers to the slick little fighters. In the end, they more than proved their value, not to mention the faith Gen. Arnold had put in them at the start. “I am very proud of you young women for the outstanding job you have done as members of the Air Forces team,” Arnold told the last graduating WASP class. “When we needed you, you came through and have served most commendably under very difficult circumstances.” Barry Goldwater, who helped oversee WASP operations during the war, later said his involvement with the unit was among his proudest achievements. Recognition otherwise was slow in coming to the pilots. It would take another 33 years for them to finally gain official veteran status. In 2009 the WASP at last received the national recognition long due them when they were awarded the distinguished Congressional Gold Medal by the Congress of the United States and the President.
If the WASP are now celebrated as heroes, it is largely because of women like Dorothy Hoover. Ms. Hoover, like her colleagues, had a mission and a dream. The mission was to serve her nation in its greatest hour of need; the dream was to fulfill that mission through the pursuit of something she loved: flying airplanes. But those things alone were not enough to ensure success. She also had to have the courage, determination and professional competence to achieve her lofty goals. She had all of these in abundance. I believe the legacy of Dorothy Hoover and her sisters in flight is one that will endure and resound down through American history. They serve as a lasting reminder to us all, men and women alike, that amazing things can happen when we have the faith and grit to make our own dreams come true. The WASP taught us something else too: often the most satisfying dreams are not about us alone but the work we do for others. God’s speed, Dorothy.

respectfully reposted:

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Elaine Danforth Harmon, 44-W-9 | April 21, 2015

"My greatest achievement is having raised four independent, intelligent, capable children who are good citizens and who are raising children with the same traits."  
 WASP Elaine Harmon*

Elaine D. Harmon, who had been a member of the Women Airforce Service Pilots during World War II and later worked to gain veteran status for the pilots, died April 21 at Casey House Hospice Center in Rockville from complications of breast cancer. She was 95.

The daughter of Dr. Dave Danforth, a dentist, and Margaret Oliphant Danforth, a homemaker, the former Elaine Danforth was born and raised on 34th Street, and graduated in 1936 from Eastern High School.

Mrs. Harmon participated in World War II aviation history when she was accepted in 1944 into the Women's Airforce Service Pilots — or WASP — over the objections of her mother, who considered it "unladylike," said a granddaughter, Erin Miller of Silver Spring.

"When I began flight training, the school required at least one parent's signature," Mrs. Harmon told the Air Force Print News in a 2007 interview.  "Although my father was very supportive of my adventures, my mother was absolutely against the thought of me flying," she said. "So I mailed the letter to my father's office. He promptly signed it and returned it in the next day's mail."

She learned to fly while an undergraduate at the University of Maryland, College Park, where she earned a bachelor's degree in 1940 in bacteriology.  She joined the Civil Aeronautics Authority Program and learned to fly Piper Cubs at College Park Airport for $40.

Army Air Force Gen. Henry H. "Hap" Arnold established the WASP program in 1942. Its goal was to train women as ferry pilots.   One of their jobs was to ferry new planes from aircraft manufacturing plants to points where they were shipped or flown overseas.

Mrs. Harmon was one of 25,000 women who applied for training. Only 1,830 were accepted with 1,074 earning their wings. After completing the program, they were assigned to operational duties.

Training consisted of seven months of ground school and flight training, with a minimum of 500 flight hours.

One of their jobs was to ferry new planes from aircraft manufacturing plants to points where they were shipped or flown overseas.

"She became a member of class 44-9 and trained at Sweetwater, Texas, with a group of women that she always referred to as 'extraordinary,'" said Ms. Miller.

After completing her training in 1944 at Avenger Field, she was stationed at Nellis Air Base near Las Vegas. During her career, she flew the AT-6 Texan, PT-17 trainer and BT-13 trainer, and had been a co-pilot on the B-17 Flying Fortress.

In addition to delivering new planes, WASP pilots trained male pilots, ferried cargo, and dragged targets that were used for target practice.

During the war, 38 WASP pilots lost their lives. If a WASP was killed in the line of duty, she was not entitled to a military funeral and her family was responsible for paying to have her body returned home.

One of their jobs was to ferry new planes from aircraft manufacturing plants to points where they were shipped or flown overseas.

Mrs. Harmon was one of 25,000 women who applied for training. Only 1,830 were accepted with 1,074 earning their wings. After completing the program, they were assigned to operational duties.
Training consisted of six months of ground school and flight training, with a minimum of 500 flight hours.

"She became a member of class 44-9 and trained at Sweetwater, Texas, with a group of women that she always referred to as 'extraordinary,'" said Ms. Miller.

After completing her training in 1944 at Avenger Field, she was stationed at Nellis Air Base near Las Vegas. During her career, she flew the AT-6 Texan, PT-17 trainer and BT-13 trainer, and had been a co-pilot on the B-17 Flying Fortress.

In addition to delivering new planes, WASP pilots trained male pilots, ferried cargo, and dragged targets that were used for target practice.

During the war, 38 WASP pilots lost their lives. If a WASP was killed in the line of duty, she was not entitled to a military funeral and her family was responsible for paying to have her body returned home.

They were not authorized to fly a gold star flag that meant a military death of a loved one had occurred, and they were denied veteran status.

The WASP program was disbanded in December 1944.

Monday, March 30, 2015

WASP Florence Emig Wheeler, 44-W-10 | March 30, 2015

"I had a father who was always interested in flying. He encouraged me to take it up when I had the opportunity to join the San Jose State College flying club in 1940."WASP Florence Wheeler, 44-W-10 

WASP Florence Emig Wheeler, 44-W-10
March 27, 2015, 9:43PM 

Former Healdsburg High School teacher Florence Wheeler, who served as a member of the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots during World War II and later received a Congressional Gold Medal, died Monday of a heart condition. She was 92.
Born Florence Emig on April 6, 1922, in Santa Clara, she learned to fly while attending San Jose State University in the early 1940s. She became a flight instructor, and had racked up more than 1,500 hours of flying time before applying to become a WASP, said her son, Keith Wheeler.
She was one of 1,074 women who became military-trained pilots, ferrying fighters and bombers during the war in order to free men to fly combat missions. The women were not considered part of the military, though they were awarded veteran status decades later.
Wheeler moved to Nevada after civilian aviation was terminated with the onset of war in late 1941. While there, she trained military pilots before she entered the service in 1944. She earned her wings in Sweetwater, Texas, and served as a WASP for just 10 days before the group was disbanded in December of that year.
But her flying days continued long after her wartime service. She returned to San Jose to finish college, and taught lessons to prospective pilots at Reid-Hillview Airport until 1952.
“You can be up 6,000 feet all by yourself and you can see to the Sierra, the Farallones, you can see Mount Shasta, beautiful, just beautiful,” she told a Press Democrat reporter in 2009, describing her love of flying. “And you are in charge of this machine. It’s kind of great.”
She passed that enthusiasm on to her own father, Bill Emig. She taught him how to fly in 1950, and he earned his pilot’s license at age 74.
Bill Emig was the sheriff of Santa Clara County, while Florence Emig’s mother, Leora, fed the homeless and poor during the Great Depression. The family ethic was one of service to the community.
By the time she was 30, she was a home economics teacher at Healdsburg High School, where she taught for 30 years.
She met her husband, Marshall Wheeler, in the mid-1950s at the high school and they married in 1956. Their son, Keith, was born in 1957, and their daughter, Paula, in 1958. While raising her family, Florence Wheeler continued to be active in a Sonoma County flying club. She also made her own clothing, as well as clothing for her children. She made her daughter’s prom dresses and also created costumes for high school plays.
She learned woodworking, plumbing and basic electrical work, and also enjoyed art, painting and other crafts. She handcrafted some of the family’s furniture.
After retiring from teaching, she returned to school at Alameda City College, with her daughter, to study fashion design for two years.
She was active for decades in the Unitarian Universalist Church in Santa Rosa, of which she was a founding member.
She traveled to Paris, London and Egypt, and she and her husband enjoyed the outdoors and hiking at Yosemite. She hiked around the Healdsburg area until about 2008, when her health began to decline. 
In 2010, despite flagging health, and at her son’s insistence, Wheeler attended the Washington, D.C., ceremony awarding the World War II WASPs with the Congressional Gold Medal. 
“We had a great time, maybe that was the best time I ever had with my mom,” Keith Wheeler said.
A novel by Jeane Slone, “She Flew Bombers,” is loosely based on Florence Wheeler’s life. She served as a technical editor for the novel, which Slone dedicated to her.
Florence Wheeler is survived by her husband, son and daughter.
“I said a little prayer for Floss,” said caregiver Stacy Sincheff, using Wheeler’s nickname. “I told her, ‘Now you can fly, see your mom and sister, and you can do it without your airplane.’ ”
A memorial service is planned at 1:30 p.m. April 18 at the Unitarian Universalist Church, 547 Mendocino Ave. in Santa Rosa.
*Article respectfully reposted from The Press Democrat, Santa Rosa, California
**Quote from Out of the Blue and Into History, by WASP Betty Turner

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Andrea C. Shaw, 43-W-8 | Jan 11, 2015

"I volunteered for the Air Force during the Korean conflict.  
I assisted, then became CO WAF Squadron of 200 ladies for three years."

Andrea C. Shaw was born in Bakersfield, California on March 18, 1919.  The facts of her early life story are brief, but her life was filled with service to her county, no matter what the challenge.

She entered WASP Training -- reported to Avenger Field, Sweetwater, Texas with 97 other hopeful young women pilots.  After approximately 6 months of Army Air Force flight training, she was among the 48 proud graduates of class 43-8.  She earned her silver WASP Wings and  assigned to Merced Field, California.

From Merced she was transferred to March AFB, California; Hamilton AFB in Bakersfield, California; Chico AFB,  Chico, California and Las Vegas, Nevada.  At Las Vegas, she transitioned into the B-26.  During her time as a WASP, she flew the BT-13, AT-6, UC-78, B-26 and A-24 (used by the Navy in the Battle of Midway).  She was also one of a select group of WASP sent to officer training school in Orland, Fl.

Following the deactivation of the WASP, Andrea took charge of the road accounting department for Kern County, California.  From 1951 to 1958, she volunteered to serve with the Air Force.  She became Commanding Officer of a WAF Squadron for 3 years and was then transferred to England, where she served as a finance officer at a small hospital base.

After leaving the Air Force in 1959, Andrea earned her real estate license but eventually, took a civil service examination and was assigned to Anchorage, Alaska as a customs inspector.  One of her most vivid memories was of the Good Friday Alaskan earthquake of 1964, which lasted 20 seconds and was classified 9.2 on the Richter scale.  She later said, "It make 'Christians' of a lot of folks.  It brought out the 'best' with everyone helping anyone in need.

Andrea retired to Redmond, Washington following her service in customs, and set up house on a small lake surrounded by wildlife and 'nice neighbors.'

Andrea later wrote of her life in Washington: "I have developed a liking for the challenge of building things. With no background for carpentry, I have managed to put a 10' x 12' dec and repaired a c'xi 16' second floor deck...nothing spectacular--but bound to outlast the Pyramids!

This special lady was truly one-of-a-kind.  She had a  lifelong love of country and neighbor.  She took pleasure in building things and the beauty of the world around her.  

God bless those whose lives she touched.  

Respectfully posted by Nancy Parrish
Wings Across America

Taken from Betty Turner's "Out of the Blue and Into History," p 249.

Monday, February 16, 2015

WASP Mary Nesbit Hearn, 44-W-6 | February 7, 2015

"I was absolutely convinced that they couldn’t win the war without me.  After all, It was a big effort and everybody had to pitch in and I wanted to do my share!    I was going to be a WASP!"
     WASP Mary Nesbit Hearn, 44-6 **

Born February 19, 1921, Mary Harriet Nesbit was the fourth of five children born to Navy Captain Donald W. Nesbit and his wife, Nancy Pike Nesbit. It was a comfortable household and as a military family, the Nesbit household moved often.

In 1927 Charles Lindbergh made his historic trans-Atlantic flight that electrified the world. When he stopped to visit Pensacola Naval Air Station, the officers and their families were invited to meet him at a reception held in his honor; and at the age of six or seven, Mary was not only awe stuck but in love, and sure he’d wait to marry her.

Shortly there after, a family friend, Admiral Rabie invited Mary and her older sister Nancy to a white glove dinner, and as the girls were saying “Thank you for a lovely evening”, Admiral Rabie pulled two small boxes from his pocket and gave one to each of the girls. The boxes held miniature gold naval aviator wings. The Admiral explained that he did not invite their brothers because they would eventually have the opportunity to earn their wings. But because girls could never earn them, he wanted to give them the miniatures as a gift.

Mary’s two older brothers graduated from the Citadel in June of 1941. The oldest received a direct commission into the Army, and the youngest of the two, not quite 21 went on to get his masters in engineering before joining Patton’s Army following graduation. Mary’s older sister got her Masters in political science, earned a scholarship to Buenos Aires for a year and was a translator during the war. Mary graduated from Chapel Hill, and the youngest brother joined his older brothers in the Army once he graduated from the Citadel.   

With the war in full swing and her brothers and sister involved in the war effort, Mary wanted to do her part. After asking to join the WAVE (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency) and having her father nix the idea, as not a fitting place for a “lady”,  she moved on to the idea of being going to Baltimore and building aircraft as a “Rosie the Riveter”. That was not well received either.

Mary saw an article in the Sunday Washington Post about the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) and was immediately inspired. After her father reviewed the article, noting that 500 flight hours were required, and knowing her salary of $90 per month would buy little flight time, he gave his blessing. Regardless of how long it would take, she was elated to think she was on the road to helping her country win that terrible war. She started her lessons at a small airport outside of DC. She could take a bus and get to within a mile of the field and walk the rest of the way. Stretching it a bit, she could make one months salary last for six or seven lessons. She loved flying and soloed in nine hours.

She hit a snag when the government closed all civilian airports within 50 miles of the coast. But not to be deterred, she found a small airport... actually a grassy meadow, in Manassas, Virginia where she could continue her lessons. There was a daily train, and a railroad employee that had a rooming house that included Saturday night dinner and Sunday breakfast for a nominal price. Although the lessons with an overnight stay cost considerably more than the lessons at the local airport, Mary dipped into her savings and over a weekend she could pick up two hours of flying time on Saturday and two hours on Sunday and get back to DC on Sunday evening.

Her father’s plan to keep her occupied, but close to home, was sabotaged without warning... the Army Air Corp decided that women with 500 hours of flying time had developed habits that just didn’t comply with the “Army Way”; the flight time requirements were dropped from 500 hours to 35 hours! Mary was ecstatic! Only about five hours to go before she could submit her application! Just one final trip to Manassas!

With her log book and application in hand, she made her way to the WASP headquarters, Jacqueline Cochran’s office, in the Pentagon and begged them to send her to Sweetwater immediately. She didn’t realize that the WASP were swamped with over 25,000 applicants. Fortunately Mary had her degree from University of North Carolina, and met all the age, height and weight requirements. Each weekend she would show up at the WASP office, let them know she was packed and ready to go until they finally accepted her into the class of 44-5.

The long awaited departure day finally arrived and, her father took her to the train station for her trip to Sweetwater. Mary had orders to report to Avenger Field on his birthday, Dec 7. While saying their goodbyes her Father pulled out a wristwatch with a sweep second hand. It was one of the requirements for entering school, but she hadn’t put aside the money for it. It was his way of giving her his blessing.

A number of girls entering the class of 44-5 got off the train together in Sweetwater, made their way to the Bluebonnet Hotel and waited for the next mornings transfer in the “Cattle Car” to Avenger Field or better known as “Cochran’s Convent”. 

The new recruits were taken to an auditorium, the lights were turned down and they were told “look to your right, now look to your left” – “Only one of you will graduate”. Mary was terrified! The women were issued two men’s coveralls – size large – but they rolled up the sleeves, rolled up the legs and cinched in the belt and made do. Additionally they were issued two sheets and one blanket; rooms were known as bays, and there were six girls to a bay with one bathroom. I don’t think she will ever forget being awakened by the airplane engine noise from the flight line that she remembers as music to her ears, while the odor of gasoline was her perfume!

One of the bay mates was not quite ready for revile at six the first morning (she was doing her hair!); everyone was surprised and shocked when they returned from breakfast to find her mattress stripped and rolled up. She was gone - the first woman had been washed out of 44-5, but not the last.

Each class was divided into Flight 1 and Flight 2. Flight 1 went to ground school in the morning while Flight 2 flew, and in the afternoon it reversed. The PT-19, an updated version of the 90 horsepower WWI Red Baron plane, was the primary trainer. There was no starter; had a fixed landing gear, quite close together, making for tricky landings, touchy breaks, no intercom and an open cockpit. When the instructor tapped his head, he was in control; if he moved the stick back and forth, the student was to take over and repeat the maneuver he had just demonstrated.

After 70 hours in the Primary Trainer, it was on to the Basic Trainer – BT-13, best known as the Vultee Vibrator. It had a closed canopy, an intercom system and 350 horsepower – wow! What a step up! After another 70 hours, finally, the Advanced Trainer – the AT-6 with retractable landing gear, intercom system, 650 horsepower and a preflight check list of 28 different things that had to be memorized and actioned before the starter could be touched!

In the middle of Advanced Training, she was transferred to another instructor – she was terrified she was being washed out. She was told no, but it was suggested that she was lacking in upper body strength... so she added the gym to the already 16-hour days between flight school, ground school and study. In the advanced stage there was night flying and several cross country flights. 44-5 was getting close to graduation, but her final flight was a 2,000 mile cross country solo from Sweetwater, TX to Blythe CA. Getting caught in a nasty squall, with thunder all around and lightening dancing on her wings, she was sure she was a goner... Petrified, but steady, she held her heading, and managed to clear the squall.

The final written exams and check ride were closing fast. Morse code was more of an issue than anything else; map reading, engines and plotting courses all came easy, but those dots and dashes just wouldn’t fall into place for Mary. With help from her Bay mates’ drilling and quizzing she passed. With the final written exam behind her, it was now time for THE check ride... She as so intimidated by the Army Lieutenant performing the check ride - she was sure he would fail her – pass or fail? Wings or no wings? Oh, the shame of going home without her wings! There was a lot riding on that one hour check ride! She was so nervous she started to cry, went behind a shed and had her head buried in her hands when an instructor found her sobbing – “What the hell are you doing? Don’t you know that you wouldn’t be here unless we knew you would pass?   Now get out there and show them what you can do!”

She passed! 

Mary was 23; it was Jun 27, 1944 when 72 of the original 132 class of 44-5 graduated. Mary walked across the stage and was presented with her wings.

On one of her solo flights, she’d flown over a desolate little airfield, which wasn’t on the map, in fact she thought she was off course until she spotted Phoenix just ahead. There was not a blade of grass, not a tree, just desert. Come to find out it was Marana Army Air Base – her assigned base as an engineering  test pilot! She tested five planes a day, two in the morning and three in the afternoon testing their air worthiness. 

Little did she know that the desolate air field held the key to her happiness for the next 57 years.  You see, she met the love of her life, Lu Hearn, the very first day at Marana.


Mary took her last flight Saturday, February 7, 2015, just 12 days shy of her 94th birthday. 

 In reviewing her log book yesterday, I found the entry for February 7, 1944 – she had 3 ½ hours of flight time practicing the pylon course and doing lazy eights... 

Services to be scheduled at Arlington National Cemetery.


*Above article posted as submitted by Mary's daughter, Patti Macchi
** Quote from Mary's Wings Across America Interview


Personal note: 

Mary Hearn was a gentle lady with a talent for making you feel at ease.  Such a lovely person and a delight to interview, which we were privileged to do in her Florida home in May, 2003.  

Below is a photograph from that trip.  Mary was unfazed as we unloaded all of our video equipment and placed it in her beautiful living room.  

Gracious is the word I will remember.  Mary was so gracious.

God bless her family and all of those fortunate to have known her.

Nancy Parrish