In Memoriam

 

Whirly-Girl Hovering in Heaven with Numbers Lower Than 400

WG#1 Hanna Reitsch

WG#2 Ann Carter

WG#5 Lyn Alexander

WG#8 Jacqueline Auriol

WG#9 Marilynn Riviere

WG#10 Edna Whyte

WG#11 Clara Livingston

WG#12 Mary Rosholt

WG#13 Jean Ross Phelan

WG#16 Dotti Young

WG#17 Arline Davis

WG#18 Elynor Falk

WG#19 Barbara Riggs

WG#20 Evelyn Johnson

Read more

WG#21 Charlotte Kelley

WG#22 Patricia Grant

WG#24 Alice DeWitt

WG#25 Janey Hart

WG#27 Dora Strother

WG#28 Teddy Kenyon

WG#29 Julia Short

WG#30 Helen Miller

WG#34 Ellen Gilmour

WG#36 Marion Orr

WG#38 Esther Gardiner

WG#40 Patricia Arnold

WG#43 Beverly Lang

WG#45 Dorothy Anthony

WG#46 Lauretta Foy

WG#48 Cela Orpen

WG#50 Ilovene Potter

WG#52 Betty Pfister

WG#55 Doris Lockness

WG#56 Mary Raub

WG#57 Bertha Coe

WG#59 Doris Renninger-Brell

WG#60 Marjy Crowl

WG#62 Nancy Martin Graham

WG#63 Aileen Roberts

WG#64 Gini Richardson

WG#66 Gay Maher

WG#67 Tony Page

WG#69 Mary Ann Hamilton

WG#74 Faith Richards

WG#76 Mary Reedy

WG#78 Ruth Deerman

WG#79 Sheila Scott

WG#80 Mona Coons

WG#82 Alice Weisendanger

WG#84 Doris Mullen

WG#85 Hazel Jones

WG#91 Ann Younger

WG#92 Esther Phipps

WG#93 Marjorie Gorman

WG#94 Phyllis Pierce

WG#96 Brenda Moore

WG#98 H. Gilliland

WG#100 Marcia Yockey

WG#102 Shirley Upton

WG#103 Doris Langher

WG#105 Sparkie Cannon

WG#108 Louise Smith

WG#112 Germaine DeFerranti

WG#115 Dorothy Kaye

WG#118 Jean Tinsley

WG#121 Rosemary Rose

WG#122 Carolyn Burum

WG#126 Louise Kaiser

WG#127 Barbara Maxey

WG#130 Mary De Simone

WG#131 Lorna deBlicquy

WG#132 Dorothy Flint

WG#133 Anne Frank

WG#137 Agnes Gallatin

WG#139 Helen Jost

WG#141 Gale Brownlee

WG#142 A. Page Shamburger

WG#143 Irene Teutloff

WG#144 Ruby Sheldon

WG#145 Joyce Failing

WG#148 Jean Bowers

WG#151 Irene Brunks

WG#158 Marilyn Arnold

WG#169 Holly Iler

WG#170 Helen White

WG#177 Fatemeh Pahlavi

WG#178 Josephine Richardson

WG#189 Mary Lou Brown

WG#195 Valera Johnson

WG#208 Jessica Hedges

WG#213 Barbara Salinis

WG#217 Mary Carr

WG#223 Frankie Sutton

WG#224 Edna Sanroma

WG#227 Dee Fulk

WG#228 Tracy Pilurs

WG#237 Carolyn Pilaar

WG#252 Katherine Strehle

WG#262 Karen Key

WG#263 Sheryl Seroonian

WG#280 Alma Parker

WG#285 Maria-Elena Keran

WG#318 Carla Baker

WG#333 Christine Sturm

WG#339 Evelyn Van Kesteren

WG#385 Barbara Robinson

 

Whirly-Girls Hovering in Heaven with Numbers Above 400

WG#401 Yumiko Take

WG#425 Marie Johansson

WG#445 Michaela Hickey

WG#514 Christine Bauer

WG#518 Jeannie Dent

WG#536 Margaret Fisher

WG#549 Marlene Morris

WG#632 Sharleen Walker

WG#640 Dietra Sheppard

WG#673 Barbara Fasken

WG#732 Colette Hug

WG#765 Linda Gentry

WG#823 Lieve Verdoodt

Read more

WG#837 Janey Blair

WG#894 Barbara Klein

WG#1030 Tina Junker

WG#1086 Jennifer Odom

WG#1129 Melinda Stratulat

WG#1145 Charlotte Johnson

WG#1234 Catherine Nussbaumer, M.D.

WG#1339 Keiko Minakata

WG#1353 Michelle Price

WG#1364 Amber Lowery

WG#1391 Carol Forrest

WG#1520 Karen Johnson

WG#1563 Sharri Huffert

 

Associate (formerly Auxiliary) Members in Heaven

Charlie Cox

Wes Moore

Wylie Mullen

Arthur Pfister

James Phelan

Godfrey Rockefeller

John Slattery

Milton Stratford

Robert Vetter

 

 

Obituaries for some Whirly-Girls
who are Hovering in Heaven

*Some of these have been excerpted from local newspapers and some have been written by Whirly-Girls

Jean Tinsley

Jean Tinsley

Jean Kaye Tinsley was born on March 24, 1927 in San Francisco. She was deeply committed to aviation throughout her life. She earned an A.B. in Spanish, a B.S. in applied mathematics and statistics, and an M.A. in philology. She married Dr. Clarence Tinsley in 1941. Three children preceded her in death, and she is survived by three children, numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and one great-great-grandchild.

Jean began flying fixed-wing aircraft in 1945, balloons in 1961, and helicopters in 1965. She was the first woman to be rated in constant speed prop gyroplanes in 1976. She was Whirly-Girl number 118 and deeply involved in the organization, acting as Scholarship Chairman, International Secretary, Executive Director (for 12 years), and then Executive Director Emeritus. She received the Livingston Award for lifetime achievement in 1994. She is also included in the book, Hovering: The History of the Whirly-Girls, International Women Helicopter Pilots.

Jean was involved in many aviation organizations, serving on the Boards of Directors for the San Francisco Aeronautical Society, the Hiller Aviation Museum, and the National Aeronautic Association (NAA) as well as the Whirly-Girls. She played major roles in the Helicopter Club of America (HCA), the National Aviation Hall of Fame, and the Western Aerospace Museum at the Oakland International Airport, and was a chairman of the Bay Cities Chapter of the Ninety-Nines. She was a US representative to the International Rotorcraft Commission (CIG) and a member of the Guild of Air Pilots and Air Navigators, City of London. And she was designated by the FAA as a Written Test Examiner and an Accident Prevention Counselor.

Read more

One of Jean’s proudest moments came in July 1973 when she was one of six women helicopter pilots on the United States competition team in the second World Helicopter Championships in England. She then acted as a US judge or chief judge for later world championship competitions. After competing in 1978, she worked diligently to found the Helicopter Club of America (HCA), and became the first woman president of the HCA.

In March 1990, the National Aeronautic Association (NAA) requested Jean to be one of the designated officials to observe and report on the XV-15 tilt-rotor program test flights when the tilt-rotor qualified for world record status.  Jean was determined to fly the XV-15 after watching it perform. She became the first woman to pilot the tilt-rotor on April 12, 1990.

Jean received numerous awards, including the Bell Helicopter Textron Award for being the first woman to pilot the XV-15 tilt-rotor (1990), the Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of California (1991), the NAA Elder Statesman of Aviation Award (1996), and in 1998, she was inducted into the International Forest of Friendship, a memorial dedicated to notable women and men in aviation and space exploration. She worked throughout her life to champion safety and advance women in aviation.

Jean died on April 26, 2017 at age 90.

Doris Lockness

Doris Lockness

Doris Lockness, WG #55, passed away on January 30, 2017 in California three days before her 107th birthday. She started flying in 1939, fitting in flight training while raising four children. As quoted by Village Life, she said, “Once they were all in school, I’d do the fastest housework you ever saw and then hop on my bike to rush to that little airport.”

Her flying became a source of conflict between her and her first husband, and they divorced. She later married Robert Lockness, and they were married for 52 years until his death.

Doris worked as a Liaison Engineer on the C-4 in World War II, and then flew airplanes as a member of the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP). After the war, she worked as a flight instructor, performed sightseeing flights, and participated in air shows around the country in her “Swamp Angel,” a Vultee-Stinson warbird.

All in all, she owned nine planes, and flew seaplanes, gyroplanes, hot-air balloons, and gliders as well as helicopters.

Read more

An aviation pioneer and strong advocate for women who fly, Doris was the 1996 recipient the Livingston Award from the Whirly-Girls. The OX-5 Pioneers presented Doris with the Legion of Merit Award, the Pioneer Women’s Award, and entered her in the Pioneer Hall of Fame. She received a certificate of honor from the National Aeronautic Association (NAA), the Elder Statesman of Aviation Award, and the Katherine Wright Memorial Award. Women in Aviation International included Doris as one of the 100 most influential women in aviation.

More information about Doris may be found here.

Mitzi Ellis

Mitzi EllisMitzi Gutheil Ellis, WG #109, died in Portland, Oregon on June 16, 2016.

Mitzi was the first Whirly-Girl to be an actress and had many do-it-yourself accomplishments, such as welding. Her husband was also a helicopter pilot.

She is shown at left in a Hughes 300 helicopter.

Charla “Sparkie” Gates Cannon

WG#105 Charla Gates Cannon, died peacefully at home in Denver, CO on June 6, 2013. Born in Denver on October 19, 1919, “Sparkie” was the daughter of Charles C. Gates, founder of the Gates Rubber Company, and Hazel Rhoads Gates.

Sparkie attended Bennett College in Millbrook, NY and enjoyed travelling and gardening. During the years her family spent in Honolulu, Sparkie developed a love for the islands’ flowers and a deep appreciation for Asian art and culture.

After earning her helicopter pilot certificate and becoming a Whirly-Girl, Sparkie flew Arnold Palmer, the winner of the U.S. Open at Cherry Hills, from Stapleton Airport to PGA headquarters in Cherry Creek.

Read more

Sparkie married Brown Woodburn Cannon in 1941 and raised three sons. Her business interests included Denver’s first spa, aviation and agricultural pursuits in Wyoming, and gold mining. She was involved in a number of civic organizations in Denver, including the Denver Botanic Gardens, and the Denver Debutante Ball. The role she esteemed most, however, was that of wife, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother.

Sparkie Cannon is survived by her sister LeBurta Gates Atherton, her sons Brown Woodburn Cannon, Charles Gates Cannon and Reynolds Gates Cannon, her daughter-in-laws Mardi Cannon and Maureen Cannon, and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.


Nancy Martin

Nancy Martin, WG #62, died December 3, 2015 at her home in Virginia. She was born on October 18, 1921 and grew up in New York. In 1941, Nancy married John Winston Graham, an Army Air Corps pilot who died during a training flight three months later. Fulfilling a promise to him, she earned her commercial and flight instructor ratings in November 1942 from the Embry-Riddle School of Aviation in Miami. She was then hired to train WWII pilots.

In the 1960’s she added commercial glider and helicopter ratings, and joined the Whirly-Girls. She owned two Cessna airplanes and kept her CFII current most of her life. She wrote articles for aviation magazines, periodicals, and published a short story in The New Yorker.

Nancy Martin, WG #62, died December 3, 2015 at her home in Virginia. She was born on October 18, 1921 and grew up in New York. In 1941, Nancy married John Winston Graham, an Army Air Corps pilot who died during a training flight three months later. Fulfilling a promise to him, she earned her commercial and flight instructor ratings in November 1942 from the Embry-Riddle School of Aviation in Miami. She was then hired to train WWII pilots.

In the 1960’s she added commercial glider and helicopter ratings, and joined the Whirly-Girls. She owned two Cessna airplanes and kept her CFII current most of her life. She wrote articles for aviation magazines, periodicals, and published a short story in The New Yorker.

Read more

In 1980 at the age of 59, she graduated from Georgetown University and in 1981 earned her MS in the School of Languages in Arabic because she said it was the only under enrolled course with space. Nancy was a voracious reader and collected Italian, Spanish and German literature. She donated her collection of rare aviation books to the Beinecke Library at Yale and other institutions in her late husband’s memory. She traveled widely, loved animals, and played tennis into her 93rd year. Nancy gave her time and support to many charitable causes. She was devoted and generous to her friends and family.

In 1980 at the age of 59, she graduated from Georgetown University and in 1981 earned her MS in the School of Languages in Arabic because she said it was the only under enrolled course with space. Nancy was a voracious reader and collected Italian, Spanish and German literature. She donated her collection of rare aviation books to the Beinecke Library at Yale and other institutions in her late husband’s memory. She traveled widely, loved animals, and played tennis into her 93rd year. Nancy gave her time and support to many charitable causes. She was devoted and generous to her friends and family.


Helen Jost

Helen Jost of Glen Spey, New York, died on September 25, 2015, surrounded by her family. She was born on August 18, 1927, in Stonington Deer Isle, Maine.

After becoming a helicopter pilot, Helen owned and operated her company, Kennebec Helicopters, Inc., in Stewart Airport in New York. She was the first woman to operate a commercial power-line helicopter patrol service.

She was Whirly-Girl#139 and an early member of the 99s who worked in a variety of contract jobs at a time when women helicopter pilots were rare: sightseeing tours off the Pan Am building in New York City and in the Hudson Valley; traffic reporting; powerline patrol; spotting fires for the Hudson Valley Fire Patrol; crop dusting; offshore transport to oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. She was the first to fly a sick child to Boston Children’s Hospital before medical flights were established, and for fun she enjoyed flying Santa to the mall at Christmastime.

Read more

Helen was invited on the “What’s My Line” TV show where her answers stumped the panel. Ms. Magazine covered her in a full magazine article. She also started her autobiography, “Skirts A Flying.” Her daughter, Aleta, will be continuing her work using her mother’s scrap book and 40 years of diaries as a guide.

She was married first to the late Frederick Beltzer and second to the late Robert Jost, and had two children: Aleta and David. She will be greatly missed as an inspirational person, friend to so many, loving mother, grandmother and great grandmother. Her favorite quote was, “nothing ever stays the same.”


Jane Hart

Jane Briggs Hart, WG#25, died June 5, 2015 in West Hartford, Connecticut. She was 93.

“Janey” Briggs was born Oct. 21, 1921, in Detroit, Michigan. She learned to fly as a teenager and married Philip Hart in 1943, who later served as U.S. Senator (D-Mich.) between 1959 to 1976. Though married to a U.S. Senator, Janey sidestepped the role of the stereotypical political wife and exercised her influence in the local Democratic Party.

She raised 8 children, worked for equal rights, and was an aviation pioneer as the first woman in Michigan licensed as a helicopter pilot, flying her husband to campaign events in a helicopter. She was also one of 13 women who passed an astronaut screening test. You can read more about her here.


Marjorie Gorman

Marjorie N. Gorman, WG#93, passed away June 4, 2015. She was born in Ashland, Ohio, in 1925.

Marge was a commercially rated pilot and, as Whirly-Girl #93, was one of the first 100 women helicopter licensed pilots in the world. An avid aviator, Marge piloted aircraft across the Atlantic Ocean on four occasions. She was a past president of the Mansfield Aviation Club, and a member of the Ninety-Nines International Organization of Women Pilots.

The daughter of Jessie and Carrie Smith Newcomer, she is survived by her husband of 65 years, James Gorman; her son, Jeff (Shellie) Gorman; daughter, WG#293 Gayle Gorman Green (Rich); her sister, France Harned; and grandchildren plus many nieces and nephews.


Helen Katherine Miller

WG#30 Helen Katherine “Katie” Miller, formerly of Goshen, died Friday, Feb. 13, 2015 at her daughter’s home in Hume, Virginia. She was born February 23, 1923 in Wawaka to Harley T. and Mary Adeline (Eby) Inks. On December 24, 1941, she married Russell Lloyd Miller in Wawaka who died in 1970.

Katie worked as an office manager at the Goshen Municipal Airport for many years. She had a love of flying.

She is survived by her daughter Gloria Bowman and many nieces and nephews.


Joyce Failing

Joyce Failing, WG#145, was born in Los Angeles, California, in 1927 and died December 25, 2014. She was an accomplished helicopter and fixed wing pilot. Her career of more than 50 years saw her as an air race pilot, instructor and teacher.

In addition to the Whirly-Girls, she was also a member of the Ninety-Nines International Organization of Women Pilots. Joyce obtained her pilot license at a very young age and volunteered her flying services during wartime.

She also made significant contributions to the Failing family business, Bun Boy Restaurants, headquartered in Baker, California. She is survived by her daughter, Cynthia Failing Fintz of Santa Cruz; her sons, Brad Failing of Aptos, and Michael Faelin of San Diego. She also leaves her four loving grandchildren: Patrick, Alia, Brennen, and Kiera; her brothers; Ted Carl of Santa Cruz, Richard Carl of North Carolina; her sisters; Sandy Williams of Portland, Oregon; and Judy Carwile of Hesperia, California


Amber Lowery

Amber Lowery, WG#1364, flew EMS helicopters for Air Evac Lifeteam as did her father, Lee Christensen. She flew out of the Brownwood, Texas, base and lived near Rising Star with her husband and two small children. She was reported missing July 23, 2013.

Michael Lowery, her husband, was arrested for the murder of his wife. Her remains were found on their property in Comanche County, Texas.

Amber began flying around 2003 and she worked as a helicopter instructor pilot as well as an offshore pilot before going to work for Air Evac Lifeteam. More information about Amber can be found on the Find Amber Lowery Facebook page. The Whirly-Girls community sends its love and support to Amber’s family and friends in the face of this terrible tragedy.


Gale Brownlee

Gale Brownlee, WG#141, died on Oct. 25, 2012 from complications after surgery. Daughter of the late Gladys Downer Feeley and John J. Feeley, Gale graduated from high school in 1944 and had a varied career in New York as a waitress, hat check girl, and photographer at the Stork Club, El Morocco, and the Latin quarter. During World War II, she joined a U.S.O. troupe entertaining our troops.

She later pursued a career as a photographer and runway model, performer in TV commercials, and designer with her own label. She became a commercial pilot at the Kingston Airport and worked as an instructor as well as flying fire watch over the mountains. She joined the 99s, flew in races in the Powder Puff Derby, became a Whirly-Girl, and ferried a plane as co-pilot to Nairobi, Africa. She was also an associate broker in real estate.

Read more

Gale worked to establish the first hospice in Kingston with Sister Mary Charles of the Benedictine Hospital. She proposed a heliport at the Benedictine Hospital, and as chairman of the helipad fund, saw it built. When Central Hudson tried to push forward a plan for a coal burning power plant with tall smoke stacks, she was able to arouse enough support to stop the project.

She is survived by her daughter, Ardis (Pixie) Brown, her sisters, Pam Marvin and Ellen Katz and her brother, James Feeley and wife Sue, and a large extended family.

Dora Dougherty Strother McKeon

Dr. Dora Dougherty Strother McKeon, WG#27, passed away on November 19, 2013. A true aviation pioneer, Dora was one of only two women in the W.A.S.P. program in World War II to fly the B-29 bomber. She later worked for Bell Helicopters and became the 27th woman in the free world to earn a helicopter rating. She was also the sixth female in the U.S. to earn an airline transport rating. She retired from the U.S. Air Force as a Lieutenant Colonel. Dora was a licensed psychologist in Texas, a founding fellow of the Human Factors Society of America, and a member of numerous psychology, aviation, and philanthropic organizations. Her family anticipates final interment at Arlington Cemetery in Spring 2014.