Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Muriel Virginia Kiester Martin, 44-W-5 | November 4, 2016

"Love and family closeness and respect can never be outdone by anything else.  It's the lynchpin....holds everything together."   

           WASP Muriel Virginia Kiester Martin, 44-W-5

Early morning, on November 4, 2016, Muriel Kiester Martin made her final ascent. Imagine her soaring, happy, and free, looking down upon her beloved family. Born in La Feria, Texas on February 24, 1922, she was 94 years old, and had lived a full and purposeful life.

Her parents, Carl and Bertha Kiester, were among the early settlers of La Feria and pioneers in the citrus business. Muriel grew up with her older sister “Dee” and younger brother David.

Muriel was an enthusiastic equestrian and horse lover all her life. She explored the valley on her first horse, Morocco, and passed on her enthusiasm and skills to friends and family for as long as she was able. It was in pursuit of a riding school, that she introduced her family to San Miguel de Allende in the early sixties. Later, she even managed to enlist the Mexican cavalry, in Reynosa, to teach riding to her children and some of their friends.

For many years, Muriel ran and maintained the citrus groves her father had started. She was an accomplished nursery woman, and took pride in every single orange and grapefruit in her orchards. She always added a few sprigs of bougainvillea and fresh rosemary to each box of gift fruit that she would personally pack.

Muriel was not one to sit down and take it easy, and always had a project going. As a youngster, she carved delicate little 3 dimensional wooden horses. Later in life, she took up chip carving, a German style of pattern carving. Her family and many of her friends have intricately carved wooden chests that Muriel loving made for them. But her main project was the beautiful environment she created around her home. Though she enjoyed adventures to Mexico, Muriel was a homebody. That was her soul place. She was interested in every palm tree, hibiscus, rose bush and bougainvillea on the property. She kept the lake in front of the house clear and fresh. And she loved sharing it. For many years she ran a summer camp for young children- Camp Thunderbird. Kids had a blast learning to swim, ride, make all sorts of cool crafts, and participate in other camp activities. Camp Thunderbird was a source of great pride to Muriel, and many kids around the valley benefitted from her leadership and guidance.

Muriel was a patriot. When Pearl Harbor was attacked, she was compelled to respond. She learned about the newly created Women AirForce Service Pilots (WASP). The next year, while a junior at the University of Texas, she rode her bike out to the airport to take flying lessons so she could apply to enter WASP training. 

Muriel entered the Army Air Forces flight-training program at Avenger Field in Sweetwater in December 1943. She was one of 1,830 who were accepted into the program, out of 25,000 who applied. It was a grueling program. 1,074 earned their wings. After graduation, she was stationed at Eagle Pass Army Air Base, an advanced gunnery school, where she flew AT-6 tow target missions for ground and aerial gunnery practice, training aviation cadets for combat, until the WASP program was deactivated. In 2009, the WASPs were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal. Muriel accepted the award in Washington DC, surrounded by her proud family and lifelong friends.

While in the service, Muriel met Archie, an Army Air Force Flight Surgeon from Virginia. They married in 1944 and settled in La Feria, where they raised a family. They shared a love for flying, sailing and their four children. Archie pursued his career as a radiologist in Harlingen. They were devoted patents, engaged in providing every opportunity possible for their children.

Known as “Kies” by her grandchildren and great grandchildren, she was a fun, active, involved grandmother. She often impressed them with her ping-pong, riding, tennis, archery, and canoeing skills. And, of course, they all loved her famous pancakes, crackerjack and homemade chocolate sauce.

Muriel is survived by her four children: Anne, Bunnie, Ginny and Graham; her grandchildren, Martin, David, Charlotte, Archie, Carl, Beaman and Bella; and her great-grandchildren, Alston, Watson, Garrett and Tucker.

Muriel was a unique individual; very strong but equally gentle. Never did any of us doubt that she loved us with all her heart. And we loved her back. She enriched the lives of many people throughout her life.

We can't imagine a better mother, grandmother, woman, and role model.
RIP Muriel Kiester Martin.

A special appreciation is extended to her sister in law and friend, Judy Kiester, and her caregivers Graciela and Jose Castillo.

Memorial donations may be made to the La Feria Public Library (which Muriel helped establish)
400 South Main Street

La Feria, TX 78559


Posted as written from the family of Murial Martin. 
Quote from the Wings Across America interview.


Personal note.

Wings Across America spent an unforgettable day with Murial on her beautiful oasis in the middle of south Texas, just about 10 miles from the border with Mexico.  Soft spoken, gentle, and filled with a quiet joy, she was delightful.  Ask her about her family, her horses, the ranch or flying, and the sparkle in her eyes would grow brighter and brighter.  I can still remember her kindness and her warm, easy laugh.  Lovely, remarkable lady.  Our prayers for her family and for all of those who were touched by this remarkable, fiercly loving spirit.   Our hearts are grateful for having known her.  God bless you all.

More on Murial -- Article on the Congressional Gold Medal

Friday, July 29, 2016

Norma J. "Penny" Hall Halberg, 44-W-6 | May 12, 2016

"I pumped gas, made sandwiches, served beer and soft drinks, and worked on planes.  I got my meals and my room--an old army cot in an old shack; I usually took it outside and slept under the stars.  The 'airport' consisted of a very rough strip in the desert with a couple of rundown hangars. The CAA eventually shut it down until the airstrip was cleared of borders and smoothed into some semblance of a proper runway."  Penny Halberg

Born in Kansas City, MO on April 25, 1923, Norma Penny Hall  grew up in Los Angeles, CA. Just as little boys grew up wanting to be pilots, so did Penny. 

She started flying in early 1943, working a 48 hour week in LA.  Because civilian aircraft were not allowed to fly within 100 miles of the coast, she traveled 'inland'  to to the airport in Blythe, California, to take flying lessons on the weekends.  Eventually, she quit her job and moved to the airport, which was nothing more than a wide spot in the desert. Penny pumped gas, made sandwiches, served beer, and worked on airplanes with her meals and room as part of her pay.   Her hard work paid for one hour of flying time a day.
After earning the required 35 hours and passing the initial interview and tests, Penny, along with 135 other young women pilots, was accepted into the Women’s Flying Training Program as a member of class 44-6.  She arrived at Avenger Field in Sweetwater, TX in January of 1944, during one of the worst snowstorms in west Texas history.   After completing seven months of Army Air Force flight training, she and 71 classmates, received their silver wings on August 4, 1944.  After graduation, Penny  was assigned to Gardener Field Taft, CA. where she flew BT-13's and PT-17's  as an engineering test pilot. She also flew ferry missions, including an unforgettable trip from California to St. Augustine, FL. with 30 open cockpit Stearmans in early December. 

After the WASPs were disbanded in late December 1944, Penny served as an air controller in Santa Barbara till the war ended, and then flew aircraft from the factories to dealers around the USA. Seeking something different, she found a job in Saudi Arabia as a payroll clerk and worked her way up to being the highest paid female in the corporation. However, she was still paid less than her male peers. Penny met and married a petroleum engineer, with whom she had 3 sons: Brad, Steve, and Scott Houghton. Later assignments took the family to Indonesia and East Pakistan—now Bangladesh.
On moving back to the states, she became a court reporter for the Superior Court, District of Columbia. Upon retirement, she married her husband, Paul Halberg, an ex-Navy Pilot and VP for Magnavox on March 9, 1985. Penny joined Paul in Fort Wayne, IN where she became an enthusiastic fundraiser for the Fort Wayne Philharmonic Orchestra. Penny and Paul moved to Hammock Dunes, Palm Coast, FL in 1994 and were active members of the club until 2004. 
Penny enjoyed water and snow skiing, golf, travelling, was a lifelong bridge enthusiast, and flew over most of the USA with her husband in a high performance plane he built from a kit. She will be remembered for her loving nature and her service for our country.

On May 12, 2016, Norma J. "Penny" Halberg, 93, passed away.  This remarkable, generous, kind, spirited WASP is now flying higher than she's ever flown before. 

Penny is survived by her husband Paul; by her sons: Brad, Steve, and Scott; plus daughters-in-law Barbara, Rose, and Cathy; and 3 grandchildren.
Interment is scheduled at Arlington National Cemetery for Monday, August 1, 2016.
Arrangements are under the careful direction of Lohman Funeral Home Palm Coast.


We were fortunate to meet Penny at her beautiful home in Palm Coast, Florida in April of 2003.  She made us feel right at home.  She was welcoming, warm and generous.  Her story of determination, love, commitment and patriotism was and still is inspirational.  She gave up the comfort of home to sleep in the back of a run down airport shack, sweeping floors and pumping gas in order to learn how to fly...and her gentle persistence and determination carried her throughout her lifetime.   We were honored to have known her and our prayers are with her husband, Paul, and her sons and families.  Those who knew Penny already know how extraordinary she was.  May God bless you all.

Respectfully posted by Nancy Parrish 
with information from Penny's Wings Across America interview and the original obituary, published in Fort Wayne Newspapers.
Photos added by WAA.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Grace Ashwell Lotowycz, 44-W-7 | April 8, 2016

Flying high: Boulder woman served as a WASP in WWII

Grace "Betty" Lotowycz dies at the age of 99

By Mitchell Byars
Staff WriterPO
STED:   04/23/2016 05:10:01 PM MDT | UPDATED:   ABOUT 19 HOURS AGODaily Camera / File photo)

Despite being raised in the 1920s and 1930s, Grace "Betty" Lotowycz never let anyone else's ideas of what a woman should be shape her life. From flying for the Air Force in World War II to climbing the Swiss Alps, she always set her sights high.
So it comes as no surprise that Lotowycz passed on that mentality to her four daughters.
"We always assumed women could do anything we wanted, because our mother had," said Lotowycz's eldest daughter, Sophia Stroller.
Lotowycz died just a month shy of her 100th birthday at her home in Boulder on April 8 after a life full of adventure.
She was one of just 1,074 women to become a Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP), a select group of female pilots who flew military aircraft with the U.S. Air Force during World War II.
"Whenever she was asked about flying, about being a WASP, she just said it was what everybody did, that everybody wanted to do something to help," Stroller said. "That's what she could do. It wasn't special, it wasn't glamorous. It was to serve."
After the war, Lotowycz and her husband briefly lived in Syria and taught English in a New York monastery before settling down with her family in Mill Neck, N.Y., to return to her career as a botanist.
Stroller said she heard stories as a child of her mom's flying days and traveling.
"We heard that she had climbed mountains and lived in Syria, and nobody else did anything like that in the suburbs," Stroller said.
Stroller said she grew up in a time when retelling those stories would get some strange looks, even though nothing about her mother's exploits surprised her.
"Women were supposed to be housewives and take care of the family," Stroller said. "That wasn't exactly who she had been."
But in 1977, the U.S. finally unsealed all of the documents detailing the service of the WASPS, and Lotowycz was on hand when the women were honored with the Congressional Gold Medal at Washington, D.C. in 2009.
"She was proud," Stroller said. "I was very happy for her, and happy for all the WASPS that after so many years were recognized for what they had really done."
Grace "Betty" Ashwell Lotowycz, 99, a World War II Army Air Corps WASP, Women Airforce Service Pilots, smiled while wearing her WASP hat at her home in Louisville in January of last year. (Daily Camera / File photo)
Lotowycz moved to Boulder in 2003 at the age of 87 to be closer to Stroller and her family, and was even honored at the  Bolder Boulder last year.
"She was much older and more limited, but she had always loved the mountains and had read about them a lot as a child and about Colorado," Stroller said. "It was something that she felt comfortable about."
Stroller said Lotowycz was always good about living life to the fullest, even as she got older and depended a lot on her family to get around.
"She was very good at accepting the world as it was, particularly as she got older," Stroller said. "That's sort of a life lesson you learned from her: You have to be in the moment where you are and accept what's happening and make the best of it."
Stroller said Lotowycz was really hoping to see her 100th birthday, but nevertheless leaves behind a great legacy.
"You can overcome personal obstacles, you can explore the world, you can be brave," said Stroller of the things she learned from her mother. "She was adventurous, she was curious.
"She was a spitfire."
Lotowycz is survived by her four daughters, five grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
Mitchell Byars: 303-473-1329, byarsm@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/mitchellbyars
Reposted from the Daily Boulder News

Click for additional article on Grace

Monday, April 18, 2016

Captola 'Cappy' Whittaker Johnson, 43-W-6 | March 18, 2016

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Elizabeth 'Liz' Wall Strohfus, 44-W-1 | March 6, 2016

Elizabeth Strohfus, World War II-era pilot, dies at 96


Elizabeth Strohfus, who flew military planes across the country during World War II and received two Congressional Gold Medals, died March 6 at an assisted-living center in Faribault, Minn. She was 96.
The cause was complications from a fall, said a son, Art Roberts.
Mrs. Strohfus was one of the last remaining members of the Women Airforce Service Pilots, known as WASPs. She ferried military planes in 1943 and 1944 and helped train air and infantry gunners at Las Vegas Army Airfield in Nevada.
She was one of 1,074 female pilots to earn silver wings in the WASP program. The female pilots flew military aircraft in noncombat roles during wartime to free up male pilots for combat. The women were considered civilians until Congress retroactively granted them veteran status in 1977.
Elizabeth Bridget Wall, known as Betty, was born in Faribault on Nov. 15, 1919, and described herself as an adventuresome tomboy in childhood. After completing high school in 1937, she worked in the register of deeds office at the county courthouse. It was stifling.
“When I was in school, I couldn’t take any classes except home economics or classes for working in an office — like shorthand, typing and that sort of stuff,” she told the Owatonna People’s Press in her home town. “We were very limited because we were women. It was kind of too bad because I wasn’t too interested in those things.”
One day, she overheard a conversation about flying and grew intrigued.
“I thought, ‘What a wonderful thing to get above it all and see the beautiful world there,’ ” she said. “He asked me if I wanted to fly after he saw I was interested. I said: ‘Yes, I do. I’d love to fly.’ ”
She began spending many afternoons after work volunteering at the Faribault airport, learning from pilots with the local flying club. She became so adept at the controls of the Piper Cubs that when one of the pilots left for military service, she was asked to replace him. It would cost $100 to join.
She went to the local bank for a loan, using her bicycle as collateral.

After the WASP program was disbanded in December 1944, she was turned down for a pilot’s job with Northwest Airlines and worked as an aircraft controller in Wyoming. She eventually returned to Faribault, about 50 miles south of Minneapolis, where she married Arthur Roberts and raised a family.
Widowed in 1972, she worked for the American Cancer Society in New York as a research consultant. She wed Francis Langeslag in 1979; he died in 1988.
A complete list of survivors was not immediately available.
A member of the Minnesota Aviation Hall of Fame, Mrs. Strohfus received Congressional Gold Medals for her service as a WASP and for her service in the Civil Air Patrol.

Respectfully reposted from the Washington Post.

Nancy Ruth Crout, 43-W-4 | Jan. 21, 2016

Nancye Ruth Crout
June 16, 1920 - January 21, 2016

In the very early morning hours of January 21st, Nancye Ruth Crout, slipped away peacefully to be with the Lord.

Nancy was a native of Texas, where she was married and raised her three children, Nancy Smith, of Merced, Richard Beale Crout, Jr. of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and Linda Dinius of Bloomfield, Conn. In the later years of her life, she relocated to Merced in order to be closer to her daughter, Nancy, who cared for her mother during her remaining years.

Being a voracious reader, her days were very full of reading and watching her favorite programs on television. Her passion for sports was amazing for someone of her age. Nancye's faithful little companion, Elizabeth, was the light of her life.

She was a woman of very strong faith, attending United Methodist Church of Merced. Her deep and abiding faith in God is what comforted her and helped her during the last few weeks of her life.

Nancye had an incredible life -- Most notably serving as one of the few WASP pilots during World War II. She was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 2010 in honor of her service. Nancye always took great pride in the time that she served our country.

She is survived by her three children, Nancy, Richard and Linda, three grandsons, two great-grandchildren, a brother and numerous nieces and nephews.

Nancye will be laid to rest with military honors next week with her husband, who preceded her in death, at Fort Bliss National Cemetery in El Paso, Texas.

Donations in Nancye's memory can be made to the Merced SPCA, P.O. Box 929, Merced, Ca. 95341.

Respectfully reposted from Obituaries:  www.cvobituaries.com

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.