Friday, December 7, 2007

Ann Darr: WWII Pilot and Poet, 44-W-3

"I was raised in Iowa, a prairie child, and all we had was sky. My mother was killed in an auto crash when I was three. I was told I could see her again in heaven. The only way I knew to get there was to fly."1
" (in her own words from "Out of the Blue and into History" by WASP Betty Stagg Turner)

Ann Darr, WWII pilot, poet, creative writing professor, radio broadcaster, and mother of three passed away on December 2, 2007 in Chicago. Ann was born in Bagley, Iowa in 1920, graduated from the University of Iowa in 1941, worked for NBC radio in New York, and was one of the first women military pilots to serve in WWII as a Women’s Air Force Service Pilot (WASP).

While with NBC radio in 1942 Ann was a writer and broadcaster for The Woman of Tomorrow. As a WWII pilot Ann was stationed in Sweetwater, Texas. Over 25,000 women signed up to join the WASPs and only 1074 earned wings. The WASPs flew over 60 million miles in every aircraft the Air Force had: small trainers, B-26s, B-17s, UC-78s, P-51 fighters, and the B-29 Super Fortress. By the time the WASPs were disbanded on December 20, 1944, 38 of the pilots died in airplane crashes. The first B-29 flight by the WASP’s was to show men who balked at flying it that this was a plane “even women could fly.”

Ann was a prolific writer and author of eight books of poetry: Flying the Zuni Mountains, St. Ann’s Gut, The Myth of a Woman’s Fist, Riding With the Fireworks, Cleared for Landing, Do You Take This Woman, The Twelve Pound Cigarette, and Confessions of a Skewed Romantic. Ann’s poetry readings criss crossed the world from the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. to Prague, Czechoslovakia.She taught creative writing up until the age of 80 at American University in Washington, D.C., the Writer’s Center in Bethesda, MD, and other universities throughout the country. She raised her family with her husband, George in Chevy Chase, MD.

In commemoration of the WWII Memorial Ann wrote an article for The New York Times Magazine, May 7, 1995, The Women Who Flew—but Kept Silent and for U.S. News and World Reports: The Long Flight Home: Women Served and Died in WWII. Now they are remembered.

While in her 70’s Ann toured Western Europe with other artists, writers, and musicians as a member of Point-Counter Point. This artistic troupe would float from city to city on a large river barge, dock, and then put on a day of cultural exchange with the local citizens. Ann once wrote to a friend what she wanted to appear on her tombstone: Late in life she ran away from home and joined the circus.

After I ran away from home and came back again, my Papa said go if you must but mind three things: stay away from water, stay off of boats, and don’t go up in an aeroplane. So first I learned to swim, then I learned to sail, and then I learned to fly.
A Poem from Flying the Zuni Mountains

Ann was stricken with Alzheimers and lived in nursing homes near her daughters in Portsmouth, New Hampshire and Chicago, Illinois over the past six years. Ann is survived by her three daughters: Dr. Elizabeth Darr, Worcester, MA, Deborah Darr (Kevin Shanley), Chicago, IL, and Shannon Darr-Longstaff, Eliot, ME.; grandchildren: Judson Lester, Vera Lester, Travis Longstaff, Taygra Longstaff, and many other great friends and relatives. A memorial service will be held at Arlington National Cemetery in the spring.

Contact person:
Deborah Darr

Other links:

"The Long Flight Home"
"Flying the Zuni Mountains"
"Cleared for Landing"
"Love in the Past Tense"
DOD Article
Photo: Ann & her daughter, Deborah

Monday, December 3, 2007

WASP Doris LeFever Garrison, 43-W-7

Concord - Doris LeFevre Garrison, 91, of Concord, and recently of Framingham, died Friday, Oct. 12, 2007, after a short illness. Her husband of 60 years, John Leland Garrison, died in 2005.

Mrs. Garrison was born in Schenectady, N.Y., where her father, I.D. LeFevre, was comptroller of the General Electric Company. She graduated from Brown School and Mount Holyoke College, and received a master’s degree in teaching from Columbia University.

In World War II, Mrs. Garrison served in the WASPs (Women’s Air Force Service Pilots), a group of women pilots recruited by Jackie Cochran for non-combat flying missions. During her time in the service, Mrs. Garrison was a member of a tow-target squadron and a group that ferried B-25 bombers between Texas and California.

She was a resident of Rye, N.Y., for 40 years before moving to Concord 12 years ago. In Rye, she taught for many years at Rye Country Day School, and volunteered in the League of Women Voters and Planned Parenthood of Westchester. She was active in the Rye Presbyterian Church and a member of Manursing Island Club and the Apawamis Golf Club.

Mrs. Garrison leaves her daughter, Jeanne Garrison of Cambridge, and her son, John Mark Garrison of Sherborn; two grandsons and a sister, Jeanne Hauser, of Palo Alto, Calif.

Services will be private.