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

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WG#21 Charlotte Kelley

WG#22 Patricia Grant

WG#23 Edwina “Wini” Gronvold

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#49 Frances “Fran” Bera

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

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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

Frances “Fran” Bera

Fran Bera

Whirly-Girl #49 Frances “Fran” Bera started flying in Grand Rapids, Michigan at the age of 16. She funded her after school flying lessons using money she had saved over four years by skipping lunch. Fran walked into a flight school with $80 and told them she wanted to become a pilot. Her parents were unaware of her aerial endeavors until she needed them to sign off on her solo flight. They were surprised, but supportive. Thus began Fran’s 75+ year career in aviation.

During Fran’s long and varied career, she logged over 25,000 flight hours while ferrying surplus aircraft after World War II, flight instructing, running her own flight school, and flying as an experimental test pilot. At age 23, Fran became the youngest, and one of the first, female designated pilot examiners, but she could not begin giving flight tests until after turning 24, which was the minimum age at the time. For many years, Fran also was a sales and demonstration pilot for Beech and Piper Aircraft. She is credited with naming the popular Beechcraft Duchess airplane.

When asked about discrimination in the male dominated world of aviation, Fran said, “I was having so much fun getting paid for what I loved to do that I didn’t realize that I wasn’t ‘liberated.’”

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Fran’s passion was air racing. She had been an avid air racer since the 1950s and was one of the sport’s “winningest” pilots. Fran flew the All-Women’s Transcontinental Air Race, nicknamed the “Power Puff Derby,” 20 times and won it a record seven times, placed six times, and showed four times. She also won, placed, or showed in 14 consecutive Palms to Pines Air Races. Fran successfully flew in the International Women’s Air Race, the National Championship Air Races in Reno, and the Great Race from London, England, to Victoria, British Columbia. Her numerous honors include the prestigious 2011 Katherine Wright Award from the National Aeronautics Association.

In 1993, Fran flew her Piper Cherokee 235 to Siberia “just for the fun of it.” Later, she traded her Cherokee for a Piper Comanche 260B because, she explained, “I’m getting older and need to get places faster.” Fran also completed a Citation Jet type rating as a 70th birthday present to herself. Fran often quipped, “I’m going to wear out, not rust out.”

Fran passed away on February 16, 2018, in San Diego, California. All who knew Fran loved and admired her not only for her flying skills and lifelong passion for aviation, but also for her quick wit and ability to have fun no matter where she was or whom she was with.

Edwina “Wini” Gronvold

Wini Gronvold

Edwina “Wini” Gronvold, Whirly-Girl #23, was an Army nurse stationed in Korea when she first became interested in helicopters. Later, while stationed in Germany in 1955, she married Robert M. Gronvald, an active duty Army helicopter pilot. Soon after they were married, Robert was killed in a helicopter crash, but that didn’t stop Wini from enrolling for helicopter flight training at Aetna Helicopters, Inc., in Etna, California. Wini already held a private pilot certificate for airplanes when she became a rated helicopter pilot on August 21, 1957.

As a civilian, Wini continued to work as a nurse in the Los Angeles area while also serving as vice president of the K. Rogers Aircraft Corporation in Lakewood, California, where a new type of helicopter was being developed.

In her last years, Wini resided at the Veterans Memorial Home in Vineland, New Jersey. Wini proudly served in the Army Nurse Corps Reserves, where she held the rank of Captain.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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.

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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.

Barbara Klein Remlinger

Barbara Klein Remlinger, WG #894, is hovering in heaven with her beloved husband Jon. A cardiologist in the Carson City/Tahoe area, Barbara also became involved with her husband in helicopter EMS, obtaining a part 135 certificate for medical charters. Barbara, who was already a fixed wing pilot, learned many of her flying skills in confined operations and high risk landings from her husband. She even mused about their soft spot for stray animals, noting that they often flew a homeless cat or dog home. The two were known among friends and colleagues as “the helicopter pilots” as well as being champions of air medical transport throughout Nevada.

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She provided heart services throughout the Southwest area, transporting patients frequently to the Carson-Tahoe Hospital from areas as remote as Needles Hospital, CA, Bullhead City Community Hospital (AZ), St. George Hospital (UT), and Pahrump (NV), using her own Hughes 500C aircraft. Barbara closed her practice to care for her ailing husband who predeceased her.

Angela Michele Price

Angela Michele Price, WG #1353, was born on April 14, 1963, in Belton, TX to Butch and Nita Willess Cleveland. Angela married Larry Price January 10, 2004. She graduated from Baylor University in 2008 with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Psychology. She had a variety of vocations including helicopter pilot, car salesperson, piano teacher, clinic manager at Scott and White, and assistant at her husband’s medical practice. Survivors include her husband, Larry D. Price, D.O., of Belton, her parents, her sister, Marie Young of Justin, her son, Stephen Secrest, of Tulsa, OK, her stepsons, Brandon Secrest of Belton, Jason Price of San Antonio, Justin Price of Temple, and one grandchild. She died in June, 2013 at her home.

Mary Eileen Kaehler Raub

Mary Raub, WG #56, died in May, 2013 at the age of 91. She was born in Albion, Pennsylvania to Leo E. and B. Marie Kaehler. She grew up in Girard and graduated from Kent State University.

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She became a pilot while in high school and later received her commercial certificate with ratings for airplanes — both single and multi-engine, helicopters, and her instrument instructor certificate. She also had certification for maintenance of aircraft and engines.

Mary worked as a flight instructor at the former Fairview Airport prior to becoming the co-owner and manager of the former Erie Institute of Aeronautics, a large flight training school at the former Kearsarge air-port. An extensive fire destroyed the buildings and closed the school in 1948. She was also the owner and operator of Erie’s Copter Service.

Mary was the first woman helicopter instructor for the U.S. Army at Ft. Rucker, Alabama. She was an FAA Inspector and an accident and violations specialist. She worked on the National Transportation Safety Board as the group chairman on major aircraft accidents. She retired from the NTSB and returned to Erie, Virginia in 1987.

Ruby Sheldon

Ruby Wine Sheldon, WG #144, passed away on Nov. 12, 2012, in Phoenix at the age of 95. Ruby earned her helicopter rating in 1968 and held the first Helicopter Instrument Instructor rating issued by the FAA. She spent many years flying for the U.S. Geological Survey performing a variety of remote sensing missions from the Panama Canal to Alaska, including four months on the Arctic ice 400 miles north of Alaska. She logged more than 15,000 hours in airplanes, seaplanes and helicopters.

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She also was an organizer of the Air Race Classic in which she flew 22 times, winning three times and last participating in 2005 at the age of 92. She flew in the Powder Puff Derby three times and did volunteer flying for the American Red Cross. She was inducted into the Arizona Aviation Hall of Fame in 2009 and also was honored in an exhibit in the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum.

Karen Lee Johnson

Karen Lee Johnson, WG #1520, passed away on January 2, 2013 in California while doing what she loved: flying a helicopter. She was born in 1950 to Dolphus Phelps and Bernice Barnett Phelps in Murray, Kentucky, and moved to California when she was 18.

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She had a wide range of interests that encompassed rotorcraft and fixed wing aviation as well as cooking, and horses. She was the Secretary on the Whirly-Girls Board of Directors and took over leadership responsibility of the Silent Auction fund raising event in past years, and her talent, positive energy, vision, and enthusiasm made her an invaluable member of the community.

She was also deeply involved a number of other aviation organizations, including the Ventura County Ninety-Nines, and was the Chair upon her death. She was elected the 2012 Ventura Conty Ninety-Nines’ Woman Pilot of the Year.

In addition to her rotorcraft work for San Joaquin Helicopters, she enjoyed flying a Cessna Citation Jet for corporate work and was working on expanding her aviation career into the motion picture industry.

Karen is survived by her mother Bernice Phelps, her brother Timothy Phelps, her sister Shari Phelps, her nephew Joshua Phelps, and her niece Jessica Phelps.

Barbara Salinis

Barbara Salinis, WG #213, passed away on February 8, 2012. She was 86. She received her helicopter rating on March 15, 1976 flying a Bell 47. Barbara retired from her job as a computer programmer at Hercules/Himont Corporation in 1982. She was a member of the WhirlyGirls, Ninety-Nines and the Civil Air Patrol. In addition to flying, Barbara loved cats, traveling, gardening and camping. She is missed by her daughter Meg (Marguerite) Salinis.

Thomas Richard Stuelpnagel

Thomas Stuelpnagel, founder of the Men’s Auxiliary of the Whirly-Girls, passed away on October 22, 2012. He was born in Minnesota in 1924 and was in the Marine Corps. He received a degree and a masters in Electrical Engineering from the University of California at Berkeley and won a letter on the boxing team as the light heavyweight at 175 pounds.

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Tom joined the Hughes Tool Company to work on the Howard Hughes Flying Boat. He then worked at the University of Washington where he worked on radio frequency heating, which later became the microwave oven. After returning to Hughes, he became the Director of Ordnance Systems where he and his team developed the Chain Gun, a machine gun that sold more than 30,000 units. He later worked his way up to President of Hughes Helicopters. During the next 13 years, the company produced 5,000 helicopters, including the commercial and military models of the 500 and 300 helicopters. In 1974, the company was awarded the U.S. Army contract for the Apache Attack Helicopter and grew to a $2 billion corporation with 7500 employees.

In addition to founding the Men’s Auxiliary of the Whirly-Girls, Tom was Chairman of the American Helicopter Society, Chairman of the Advisory Board at Cal State Los Angeles and was active on many boards of directors, receiving medals for his public service. He is survived by his wife of 59 years, Shirley Stuelpnagel; two sons Richard of Long Beach and John of Santa Barbara, CA; and daughter, Julie Downey of Ashland, OR.

Catherine Nussbaumer

Catherine Nussbaumer, WG #1234, worked as a pilot for Heliswiss. On May 24, 2012, she went on a mountain check flight with her Instructor Alex Bächlin (CEO of Heliswiss) and her pilot friend Stefan Bachmann. They hit a cable in the area of Kiental (Berner Oberland) in Switzerland, and all perished in the crash. Helicopter flying was Catherine’s passion and her life, and she will be sorely missed.

Evelyn Johnson

Evelyn Bryan Johnson, WG #20, passed away on May 17, 2012 at the age of 102. She was born six years after the Wright brothers first flew and taught over 5,000 students. She started flying airplanes after her husband enlisted in the Army in 1941 and became a flight instructor 1947. Over the course of her career, she logged over 57,000 hours in airplanes alone.

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She later sold Cessna airplanes, participated in races across the US, wrote about aviation, and was named flight instructor of the year in 1979 by the FAA. She received the Livingston Award from the Whirly-Girls in 2004 and was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame in 2007.

Nicknamed “Mama Bird,” she was the oldest flight instructor in the world at the age of 92, and taught until 95. The loss of a leg combined with glaucoma ended her flying career, but she continued to manage a local airport even after her 100th birthday.

She is survived by two grandsons and three great-grandchildren.

Edna Sanroma

Edna M. Hikel Sanroma, WG #224, passed away on March 30, 2009 at the age of 67. She and her husband, Paul Sanroma, were the 51st couple to hold rotorcraft ratings together. Edna attended a number of hoverings and kept in contact with other Whirly-Girl members.

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Edna majored in biology at the University of New Hampshire in 1964 and worked in animal research testing some trial substances that are now commonly used in human anesthesiology. She then worked as a Nuclear Medical Technologist and consulted throughout New England. As a licensed radiation physicist for the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, she was also a member of the Society of Nuclear Medicine and taught at Northeastern University while giving lectures at numerous other institutions. She was also a real estate broker, had a successful Teddy Bear mail order business, and was a member of the Bristol Yacht Club.

Her husband took care of her during her 27-year struggle with Alzheimer’s disease.

Irene Tuetloff

Irene Teutloff, WG #143, passed away in Berlin on December 23, 2011.

Elizabeth Haas Pfister

Betty Pfister, WG #52, passed away peacefully at her home in Aspen, Colorado on November 17, 2011. She was 90. She received the Congressional Gold Medal in 2010 for her role in the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs), the first women to fly military aircraft for the U.S. She owned and flew a P-39 flighter after the war and worked as a Pan Am stewardess. She flew gliders and balloons, and later learned to fly helicopters.

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In the early seventies, she became a member of the United States Helicopter Team. Her team represented the US in the World Helicopter Championships in both England and Russia. She bought a little Bell 47-G helicopter and had it painted to resemble a pink, yellow and orange butterfly. She named it Tinker Bell. She used to say she’d rather fly an hour in a helicopter than 100 hours in an airplane. Owning and flying that helicopter, if only for several years, was one of the highlights of her life.

The National Women’s Pilot Association, also known as the 99’s, counted Betty as a member since 1947. She organized the Aspen chapter in 1981. In 1992 she was awarded the Katherine Wright Memorial Award. She was honored with the Elder Statesman of Aviation Award by the National Aeronautic Association in Washington, D.C. in 1994. In 1995, she received the Federation Aeronautique Internationale (FAI) Rotorcraft Gold Medal for her outstanding contributions to national and international helicopter flight. She was inducted into the Colorado Aviation Hall of Fame in 1984. Betty held qualifications in more than twenty-five airplanes and helicopters.

In the late nineties, she offered local high school age children scholarships to flight school. She also sent several kids to Space Camp and once took a group to flight school in Florida herself. She organized Pitkin County Air Rescue in Colorado and was instrumental in developing a heliport at Aspen Valley Hospital.

Colette Hug

Colette Hug, WG #732, disappeared in the Alps in July 2009 during a mountain hike. She lived in France.

Sharleen Walker

Sharleen Walker, WG #632, died in 2009.

Melinda Stratulat

Melinda Stratulat, WG #1129, died June 22, 2010.

Evelyn Van Kesteren

WG #339, Evelyn Van Kesteren, passed away on July 9, 2010. She learned to fly from her husband, whom she first met at a USO dance in July, 1941 at Turner Field in Georgia. After he became an officer, they married, and she made him promise to teach her to fly.

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Years later in 1968, she flew in the Powder Puff Derby from California to Georgia. She also flew with her husband all over the world, to destinations such as Australia, Argentina, Chile, Venezuela, and Canada. She became a Whirly-Girl after obtaining her helicopter rating. She settled with her husband in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Sharri Robin Huffert

WG #1563, Sharri Huffert was born on October 1, 1962 in Port Arthur, TX. Both pilot and mechanic, she owned Reliable Helicopter Services, LLC. She passed away on Sunday, December 26, 2010 after a battle with cancer. Memorial services were held on December 28, 2010 in Grove, TX.

Ann Younger

WG #91, Ann Younger, was born July 9, 1932 in Berkeley, California. She started flying in 1959 and earned her helicopter rating June 1965. She was a commercial airplane pilot and worked for Lockheed and De Thurmond Flight Service in San Jose CA. Later she worked for Viking Air Service, Inc. as the Director of Marketing. Ann passed away in April 2009.

Joe Davenport

Joe Davenport was the love of my life but he was so much more. Nobody loved aviation more than that man did, in all its forms. May he fly forever in the heavens where he was happiest. He lived big and he went out brave. No one who knew him will ever forget him. Thank you to all you Whirly Girls who sent your kind cards and e-mails. He admired you all.

My best to you all,
Maryann Davenport

Lorna deBlicquy

Pioneering aviator Lorna deBlicquy, WG #131, died peacefully of Alzheimer’s Disease at age 77 on Saturday, March 21, 2009. Her daughter, Elaine deBlicquy, reported that “she had been doing quite well recently and was reading, as she usually did, voraciously. She had dinner…and sat down in a chair overlooking Lake Simcoe where she just ‘went to sleep.’”

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Lorna deBlicquy was a trailblazer, one of Canada’s best-known women pilots and one of the most experienced. She overcame many barriers and was tireless in her efforts to advance the cause for women in Canadian aviation. She spent her life flying and fighting for women’s rights, particularly in the field of aviation. She learned to fly in Ottawa, Ont., and soloed a J-3 Cub at age 15. She became Canada’s first woman parachutist a year later and, at the same time, the youngest person to parachute jump.

She found flying jobs hard to come by in the 1950’s in Canada as most employers would not hire “girl pilots,” but through perseverance she earned licenses for private glider, commercial helicopter, and single, multi, land, sea, DC-3 and Canadian Airline Transport Canada as the first female Civil Aviation Flight Test Inspector. She was Canada’s first “high latitude pilot,” becoming the first woman to reach the North Pole.

Lorna DeBlicquy wrote a guest editorial in 1974 in “Canadian Flight” protesting the discrimination against women pilots by Crown Corporation Air Transit. The article attracted national comment in the media and contributed to the improved climate which now ensures women a place in the cockpits of Canada’s major airlines. When Canada endorsed ICAO’s position that pregnancy is a disease, and thus automatically downgraded a pilot’s medical category, DeBlicquy served on a Canadian committee on pregnancy related to pilots’ medical standards. As a result, some leniency on the loss of a category I medical classification during pregnancy has been granted to working women pilots. She had a total of 10,000 flying hours, more than half of them earned through flight instructing. She inspired and guided many female aviators, and she will be missed.

Barbara Lynn Krauss Robinson, WG #385

Barbara Krauss Robinson was born on October 7, 1955 in Los Angeles and grew up in Southern California. In recent years, her homes in Hermosa Beach and in Hawaii brought her tranquility. She graduated from Rolling Hills High School in 1973. Barbara went to work and became an integral part of the early success of Robinson Helicopter Company. She worked devotedly as an executive for many years, and became a licensed helicopter pilot. She and Frank Robinson married in 1983 and were later divorced in 2003.

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After retiring, she devoted herself to her family and enjoyed planning adventures and world travels for her family and friends. Her son Mark and daughter Cindy were her greatest joy. Because of her experience with breast cancer, Barbara founded the Barbara K. Robinson Breast Cancer Research Foundation and generously supported other cancer organizations. Barbara opened a women’s clothing store in Hermosa Beach and named it p.i.n.k., an acronym for “People inspiring new knowledge,” with the hope of mining positivity from her cancer battle. All profits from the store went to cancer research. The store later closed in 2008, but her efforts in preserving the 1920s Craftsman-style home at 238 Pier Ave. earned Robinson commendations from the city as well as the Hermosa Beach Historical Society.

On August 13, 2009, Barbara passed peacefully in her home surrounded by the love and care of her family.

Carolyn Pilaar, WG #237

Carolyn Pilaar, 61, passed away on October 2, 2007. She taught aviation courses at Greenville Tech and Furman University, and flew for Pan Am and DHL. She raced in the Powder Puff Derby, Angel Derby, and Air Race Classic events.

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She was also active in a variety of organizations: the Whirly-Girls; the Ninety Nines; Zonta, a professional women’s organization; and Speedy Paws Agility with her toy poodle, Misty. Carolyn received the Achievement Award from the Ninety Nines, Inc. (1970), Outstanding Young Woman of the Year (1976), S.C. Flight Instructor of the Year (1976), Top Woman Pilot, World Precision Flying Championship (1990 and 1992), and in 1997 Carolyn was inducted into the South Carolina Aviation Hall of Fame. You can read more about here life here.

Maria Elena Sanchez Keran, WG #285

Maria Elena Sanchez Keran, 53, of Round Hill, Virginia, died August 25, 2008. Maria was valedictorian of her high school Class of ’72, receiving the Bank of America Achievement Award in Mathematics and honors from the California Scholarship Federation. She was the recipient of the 1973 George Van Vliet Aero Scholarship (from the College of San Mateo).

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She soloed at age 16 on July 11, 1971 and quickly went on to earn several ratings including C, I, CFI, SMEL, ATP, CFII-R-H, Glider, type in BO105, and ground instructor ratings. She also obtained an airframe and powerplant mechanic’s license. Maria received the 12th annual Doris Mullen Whirly-Girl scholarship. In 1977 she was also the recipient of the Fall Aerospace/Rotor Wing International Magazine Helicopter Scholarship for a helicopter maintenance school.

She worked in various aviation positions throughout her career, beginning with an internship to the NASA Ames Research Center near Mountainview, California, in 1976. As a mechanic she worked for Western Airlines in San Francisco as part of a B-720, B-727, and B-737 service check crew. From February of 1979 to June of 1979 she worked as a technical writer for the Vought Corporation in Dallas, Texas, writing flight manuals for the A-7II Corsair; from June of 1979 to January of 1981 she worked as an instrument flight instructor and ATP ground instructor for the Jet Fleet Corporation in Dallas, Texas; and from February of 1981 to 1985 she worked as an instrument instructor and helicopter pilot for Tenneco, Inc., in Houston, Texas. Her other aviation teaching experiences included giving vocational-training aviation lectures for Sterling High School in Houston, Texas, and providing helicopter ATP/IFR ground schools for the Helicopter Operators of Texas.

She provided helicopter ATP/IFR ground/flight instruction and IFR refresher training for several corporations and agencies including the Augusta Aviation Corporation (Pennsylvania), MBB Helicopter Corporation (Pennsylvania), Executive Air Fleet (New Jersey), Allison Gas Turbine Flight Test (Indiana), Medi-Flight Operations (California), the Texas Department of Public Safety, and the Maryland State Police. She was also a member of the Helicopter Association International (HAI) faculty for the annual HAI-CFI Refresher Clinics from 1984 through 1989.

Following her marriage to Gary Keran in 1985, her teaching took on yet another scope – home schooling her four children. She continued to keep her pilot ratings current in addition to enjoying her many hobbies, some of which included golf, cooking, gardening, pencil sketching, calligraphy, and ham radio – all of which she passed on to her family. An avid supporter of music, she was a board member of the Loudoun Symphony Orchestra from 2006 to 2008.

Charlotte K. Kelley, WG #21

Charlotte K. Kelley, a member of the Whirly Girls since 1955, and very good friend of Jean Howard, passed away at the end of August 2008. Memorial services were held in Phoenix, Arizona shortly after Labor Day and in Boston, Massachusetts.

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She first soloed a fixed-wing aircraft in 1945 and received her helicopter rating in 1947. She was the first Woman in the U.S. to be appointed Commissioner of Aeronautics, (Commonwealth of Massachusetts) in the ’50s and was a founding Member of the “Ninety Nines,” founded by Emilia Earhart. Charlotte was on the United States Helicopter Team in World Competition, beginning in Russia in 1978 and three additional Competitions. She went on to become a Judge of the FAI in World Competition, and most recently, she had been actively involved in the Scholarship Program for the Whirly Girls Organization.

She will be missed by those in aeronautics, as well as her family, Brian, her son, Melanie, her daughter, and her four grandchildren.

Keiko Minakata, WG #1339

Keiko MinakataKeiko Minakata passed away Aug. 2 in a helicopter crash in the Cascade Mountains just south of Easton, Washington. She was flying a Robinson R44 on a charter flight, carrying three passengers. She was flying for her employer, Classic Helicopter Corporation of Seattle, Wash.

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Keiko, 41, joined Classic Helicopter in March 2005 as a flight instructor. During her two years at the company she’d quickly risen through the ranks to become Classic’s Chief Pilot for its private pilot program and one of the company’s lead charter pilots. Previous to Classic, Keiko worked in Texas as a flight instructor. She trained in California and Arizona.

Originally from Japan, Keiko came to the United States in 2001 to pursue her dream of working as a professional helicopter pilot. While in flight school she met and married her husband, an American.

In addition to living her dream as a helicopter pilot, Keiko was also very involved in volunteer efforts to encourage women to pursue aviation as a career. As a Whirly-Girl, she regularly met with ladies interested in learning to fly helicopters and also volunteered her time annually at the American Heroes Air Show, a helicopter-only event held at the Museum of Flight.

Keiko was a 2007 International Whirly-Girls Scholarship winner. She intended to use to gain factory training on the Eurocopter AS350 helicopter to further her experience, skill and safety consciousness. Sadly, she did not have the opportunity to use it. The Advanced Mountain Flight Training Scholarship was established in her honor.

Bob Vetter

Many Whirly-Girls know both WG #459 Bev and husband Bob Vetter. Bev has served on the Board of Directors first as Secretary, then as a Scholarship Director and is now on the ballot to serve her second term as a Scholarship Director. We are very sad to announce that Bev’s husband, friend, and companion of 60 years passed away suddenly in January, 2007.

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Most of us know that Bob was a pilot of both fixed wing and helicopters. He was also a member of the Twirly Birds. He had several airplanes and a helicopter at their “Vetter’s Sky Ranch” in Acampo, California. He was also an Army Veteran from WWII.

Bob never missed a Whirly-Girl function in over 20 years. He was a WG Auxiliary member who provided love and support to his wife and her Whirly-Girl family. We remember the “quiet man” at the Whirly-Girl Scholarship Banquets and always came to him for a hug or kiss. Not many men can say that they had so many “Whirly” girlfriends. He always encouraged Bev to fly and to continue making our Banquet center pieces, which she always gives away after each Banquet.

The Board of Directors expects to dedicate our WG Add-On Flight Training Scholarship to Bob’s memory for 2008. A fund has been set up in his name and will be utilized for this purpose. Send your contributions, noted “for Vetter Scholarship”, to WGSF, WG Treasurer Lisa Pendergrass, P.O. Box 759, Tryon, NC 28782.

We will all miss our much-beloved Bob; personally, I will particularly miss his wonderful stories. We are happy that Bev will continue making our precious Scholarship Banquet center pieces and keeping her airstrip usable in California.

Dee Fulk

Dee Fulk, WG #227, died on Dec. 4, 2006 after a long and courageous battle with ovarian cancer.

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Dee and her husband Bill Fulk M.D. had a helicopter business in Illinois before moving to Sanibel, Florida, in 1993. Dee had also worked as a trauma nurse in rescue helicopters and was an active member of the Whirly Girls during that time. In Southwest Florida, Dee made a huge contribution to the environment through her work with the Sanibel and Captiva turtle conservation program, which she led for many years. She wrote a weekly column on nature for the local newspaper.

Joanna Gollin, WG #914, writes, “Dee will be missed so much by all her many friends and of course her family. Anyone who ever had the good fortune to meet her had their life enriched through the experience. She radiated goodness, caring, kindness and a love of life and wildlife which was an inspiration, and she also had a special quiet dignity that was all her own. In her obituary (Dec. 15) the newspaper the Islander wrote, ‘The world and Sanibel have suffered a great loss with Dee’s passing.'”

Hilaire DuBourcq

Hilaire DuBourcq, husband of WG #586 Georgina Hunter-Jones, passed away Oct. 6, 2006 in London, England of Lou Gehrig’s disease.

William B. Wood, Auxillary Member

William Breckinridge “Breck” Wood, the beloved husband of our Whirly-Girl #1095 Deborah Cox Wood, died Sept. 20, 2006. Breck was a devoted auxilliary member and helicopter pilot who worked in the Whirly Girls booth and supported our organization throughout the years. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to Richard’s Friends, c/o William E. Wood and Associates, 1805 Kempsville Road, Virginia Beach, VA 23464 or the charitable organization of your choice.

Carol Forest, WG #1391

Carol ForestOn Sunday morning, Aug. 13, 2006, WG #1391 Carol Forest passed away in a helicopter crash off Astoria, Oregon. She was the co-pilot in an R44 that was retracing the steps of Lewis and Clark by air as a part of the Flight of Discovery. The other two onboard, a pilot and camera man, also perished. Forest, 56, was a resident of San Diego and a principal of GeoSyntec Consultants. According to news reports, the area was very foggy at the time.

Scott Crossfield

On June 12, WG #435 Colleen Nevis wrote “I was honored to be able to renew acquaintances with fellow Navy Test Pilot Scott Crossfield at the NAA Awards ceremony in Arlington VA, Dec 2005. I couldn’t help but tease him that he took every opportunity to kiss the young ladies as he distributed awards, and he winked, offering that old age had its privileges! Farewell to a class act, and long-time friend of the Whirly Girls, Scott Crossfield.” Mr. Crossfield died in an airplane crash on April 19, 2006.

James D. Phelan Sr., Auxillary Member

On May 16, 2006, James D. Phelan Sr., the Whirly-Girls’ official Den Daddy, passed away.

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The following was written by Bev Haug-Schaffter WG#465, a close friend of the Phelans:

Our Den Daddy is finally at peace, and is in heaven with Jean.

Jim was laughing and happy and had been visiting with both sons, Jim Jr. and John when he just slipped away. It was yesterday, Tuesday morning, May 16, at 10:07 am. He was in his home (his and Jean’s). Jim had three daughters and two sons, all but Jim Jr. living in Conn. Jim Jr. resides in Florida.

Jim and Jean were so much “in love”. It was so great to see them hold hands, laugh and look so lovingly at each other. It took Jean 70 years to find and marry the “love of her life”. Jim had been so unhappy after Jean left us. Jim had been married for 40 years before he was widowed. He met, fell in love and married Jean the following year. They were married for twenty years. All Jim’s children loved Jean. I know she loved them too. Most of you all know that Jim was a helicopter “Crew Chief/Mechanic” in Burma. He was our “Den Daddy” and we all loved him so much. Not many men can say that they had so many “Whirly” girlfriends. He had so much history, and he and Jean were such great role models for the rest of the Whirly-Girls. We will always remember their hospitality, the red carpet treatment for all guests, and Jeans brownies. I was fortunate enough to fly both Jean and Jim for the first time together in a helicopter in Germany in 1987. We all spent Thanksgiving and Christmas together as a family when I lived in DC.

I know that Jim did not have the desire to continue living without Jean. He missed her so much. He was so happy to receive the JRHP memorial white binder about them that our own Lisa DiGiovanna put together. Jean filled the void when Jim’s first wife passed away, and we were so lucky to have him. Somehow knowing Jim is gone makes Jean’s death more “final” in our minds. Now that the JRHP era has ended, the Whirly-Girls are charting new waters without Jean and Jim’s influence.

We will surely miss him.