Charla "Sparkie" Gates Cannon
Charla Gates Cannon, WG #105, 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.
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, 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.
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 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.
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 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 Senator (D-Mich.) between 1959 to 1976. Though married to a U.S. senator, Janey Hart 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 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 Women's Pilot Association.
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, Gayle Gorman Green (Rich); her sister, France Harned; and grandchildren plus many nieces and nephews.
Helen Katherine Miller
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 and was joined the Whirly-Girls as number 30.
She is survived by her daughter Gloria Bowman, Hume, Virginia, and many nieces and nephews.
Joyce Failing, WG #145, was born in Los Angeles, California, in 1927 and died 25 December 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's 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, OR; and Judy Carwile of Hesperia, California.
Amber Lowery, WG #1364, worked for Brownwood Air Evac Lifeteam as a helicopter pilot 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 Lowery 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-Girl community sends its love and support to Amber's family and friends in the face of this terrible tragedy.
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 Brownlee 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 the second World War, 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 Derbys, 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 ll 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 Certificate. She retired from the U.S. Air Force as a Lieutenant Colonel. Dora was a licensed psychologist in the State of 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. 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.
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 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.
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.
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, #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. (Thanks to Texas Woman's University for the archive photograph.)
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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. Her full obituary is available here.
Irene Teutloff #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.
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.
Colette Hug, WG #732, disappeared in the Alps in July 2009 during a mountain hike. She lived in France.
Sharleen Walker, WG #632, died in 2009.
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.
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.
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 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,
Lorna deBlicquy, WG #131
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.’”
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.
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.
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).
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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, WG # 227, died on Dec. 4, 2006 after a long and courageous battle with ovarian cancer.
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, 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
Carol Forest, WG #1391
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
The following was written by Bev Haug-Schaffter WG#465, a close friend of the Phalens:
Ladies: I spoke to Pam, one of Jim Phelan’s three daughters this evening, Wednesday, 17 May 2006.
First of all, the family will have a memorial service for Jim in Bridgeport, Conn. within the next couple of weeks. They decided against scattering ashes out of a helicopter, but will scatter their ashes from the bridge at Rock Creek. They request that in lieu of cards or flowers, donations be sent in Jim’s name to the Whirly-Girl Scholarship fund. I told Pam that we will change the WG European FTS to include Jim’s name. They will be sorting out the household when they can all get together to do so. Pam will save and let us know what they will donate to the Museum, and any extra articles about Jean or Jim for our Whirly-Girl Archives. We will need to arrange to have them sent somewhere for the museum storage or to the TX Women’s University for the Whirly Girl Archives. (Maybe someone in the area could help with the arrangements when the time comes)?
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.
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