Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Spirit of the WASP

What inspires you to do more than you thought you ever could?  What inspires you to dream bigger, strive harder, and reach higher than you ever could have imagined?   In trying to answer those questions and the all-important final question,  “What inspired you to DO what you DO?” I need to start with the WASP, beginning with the first WASP in my life, my mom.   

Imagine being around (or more appropriately surrounded by) a determined, dynamic, passionate, patriotic, smart, spunky, stubborn (but in the good way), amazing, opinionated, optimistic, encouraging, unstoppable woman — and I’m just getting warmed up!  I could go on.

Long story short, imagine meeting and  listening to 100 or more women with those same attributes?  Yes, all the WASP I’ve met are just like mom, completely, utterly and absolutely inspirational.

Once you meet a WASP, the one thing you do not want to do is to disappoint them, and you find yourself striving to exceed their expectations.   Why?  Because the inspiration that comes from the WASP is not just about flying.  It is about courage and patriotism, and about doing your absolute best while you are being scrutinized, weighed, measured and tested by some who just might be rooting for you to fail.  It’s about rising above the ordinary and doing the “extra” ordinary, about commitment, persistence, honor, sacrifice, service, faith, and living a life for the cause greater than yourself. 

It is contagious.

My mission to share the inspirational history of the WASP began with my big idea, “Mom, let’s interview a few of the WASP in Texas and share their stories online.”  “No,” said mom, “if you interview ONE WASP you need to interview THEM ALL.”  “Mom,” said I, “That’s impossible.”  She quickly shot back, “With God’s help, nothing is impossible.”  Guess she told me!

And so it began.  Our partnership and our journey across 19 states, 110 interviews, countless web pages, and outside the box projects later.   Almost twenty years have passed, and I am certain of one thing; I am still inspired by the WASP.  

Through it all, I have been guided by God’s hand, my mother, the WASP’ gentle encouragement and participation, and the spirit of the WASP. Needless to say, I have never walked alone. 

I’ve been uplifted by these American heroines, and by their stories, their service and their humility.  My wish for all of you is that the spirit of the WASP encourage you and inspire you to ‘fly' higher than you’ve ever flown in absolutely everything you do.  If you need help, ask a WASP!

God bless you all,


Nancy Parrish is the Executive Director of Wings Across America a digital history project located just off the campus of Baylor University in Waco, Texas.  If you'd like to know more, visit!

*originally published in the Women in Aviation Conference daily news blast  
March, 2015

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Mother-daughter duo inducted into Women in Aviation Hall of Fame

Posted: Sunday, March 15, 2015 12:01 am

A local mother-daughter duo was recently inducted into the Women in Aviation International Pioneer Hall of Fame for their efforts to preserve the history of women pilots in the military.
  • Nancy Parrish and her mother Deanie, a Women Airforce Service Pilot who served during World War II, were inducted into the Women in Aviation International’s Pioneer Hall of Fame.
Deanie and Nancy Parrish were recognized last weekend in Dallas for their work with Wings Across America, a nonprofit they established to chronicle contributions of Women Airforce Service Pilots, or WASPs, who tested military aircrafts and participated in domestic flight training exercises, freeing up male Army Air Force pilots for combat in World War II.

Deanie Parrish, 93, entered the WASP program in 1944, paying her own train fare from her hometown of Avon Park, Florida, to Sweetwater, Texas, for seven months of flight training at Avenger Field.
She served as a test pilot for new military aircraft at the Greenville Air Force Base in Mississippi and was later stationed at Tyndall Air Force Base in Panama City, Florida, flying B-26 bomber planes and pulling white toe-tag banners male pilots used for target practice.
Nancy Parrish, a former producer for KWBU, started documenting her mom’s WASP experiences online, then proceeded to track down more than 100 WASPs to record their memories for a video history website.
The women also established a WASP museum in Sweetwater plus two traveling museum exhibits on the WASP program.
One traveling museum exhibit the Parrishes created is now part of a permanent exhibit at the Air Zoo in Kalamazoo, Michigan, while another was recently on display at the Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin.
“My first thought was just that I was overwhelmed,” Nancy Parrish said of the honor. “To be put in the category with the women who have gone before in this particular prestigious hall of fame was unbelievable.
“Jackie Cochran, who started the WASPs, is in the Pioneer Hall of Fame, and some pretty remarkable women who have done some remarkable things are in the Pioneer Hall of Fame. It’s kind of mind-boggling. It really helped shine another light on the WASPs themselves.”
World War II Women Airforce Service Pilot Deanie Parrish (center) poses with her daughters Barby Parrish Williams (left) and Nancy Parrish at the Women in Aviation International conference in Dallas. Deanie and Nancy Parrish were inducted into the organization’s Pioneer Hall of Fame
Other inductees included Priscilla Blum, co-founder of the Corporate Angel Network that provides free air travel to cancer patients to receive treatment, and the late Phoebe Omlie, who was the first woman to receive a commercial pilot’s license.
Peggy Chabrian, founder and president of Women in Aviation International, said the Parrishes are the first family members to be jointly inducted into the hall of fame. But all of the members of the nomination review committee ranked the Parrishes at the top of their lists, she said.
Making story known
“Starting 15 years ago, when at that point the WASP story wasn’t as well told, they were instrumental in helping make that story known,” Chabrian said. “The WASPs have gotten more recognition over the last several years, partially due to their efforts.”
Chabrian said the organization has a particular focus on the WASPs, since those were the first women to fly military aircraft. The group was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 2010 for their service.
Nancy Parrish, left, and her mother Deanie, right a Women Airforce Service Pilot who served during World War II, were inducted into the Women in Aviation International’s Pioneer Hall of Fame.
“That hadn’t happened before, and now we have a lot of women who are members of Women in Aviation who are active-duty or reserve pilots in all facets of military aviation,” said Chabrian, a commercial pilot and former flight instructor. “They particularly look to the WASPs as kind of opening the door for them to be able to fly military aircraft.”
Nancy Parrish said she and her mom recently developed a free WASP app that includes the group’s history and a song Deanie Parrish wrote about the unit’s history.
Deanie Parrish is writing a book about her experiences, and Nancy Parrish wants to create more online content from the videos she produced interviewing the WASPs.
“Our goal is to just spread the inspiration that the WASPs bring to as many different groups as possible,” Nancy Parrish said. “We want it to touch kids, we want it touch grown-ups, we want it to challenge high school kids.
“We want to show them that the sky is not just the limit — it’s beyond the sky, you can do anything. And the WASPs did.”

Friday, February 27, 2015

WAI Announces Pioneer Hall of Fame Inductees for 2015

For Release 9 a.m. CST
February 27, 2015
Mother daughter team from Waco, Texas 
to be inducted into WAI Pioneer Hall of Fame

Waco, Texas — February 17, 2015 —Women in Aviation International has announced the induction of mother daughter team, Deanie and Nancy Parrish of Wings Across America; Priscilla (Pat) Blum, founder of the Corporate Angel Network;  and Phoebe Omlie, extraordinary aviation trailblazer, into the Women in Aviation International’s prestigious Pioneer Hall of Fame.

These “women who changed aviation history,” will be honored at WAI’s 26th Annual International Conference, held on March 5 - 7, 2015 at the Hilton Anatole in Dallas, Texas.   The ceremony will take place at the closing banquet on Saturday, March 7, 2015.  

"Our induction ceremony is always the highlight of the closing banquet," says WAI President Dr. Peggy Chabrian. "These women and their accomplishments deserve to be recognized so that our members can thank those who came before them and initiated new undertakings or preserved the role of women's contributions throughout aviation history.”


Deanie and Nancy Parrish’s selection honors their ongoing mission to educate and inspire America with the little known history of the Women Airforce Service Pilots, WASP, the first women in history to fly America’s military aircraft.  The Parrish’s achievements include creating Wings Across America, a non-profit project at Baylor University; interviewing and digitally videotaping the oral histories of 105 WASP across the US; creating the comprehensive “WASP on the Web” website;  founding the National WASP WWII Museum; initiating and leading the 2009 campaign to award the WASP the Congressional Gold Medal  (the nation’s highest civilian award); initiating and leading the campaign to induct the Texas WASP into the Texas Aviation Hall of Fame; writing/publishing WASP In Their Own Words, An Illustrated History; designing two traveling WASP exhibits (including the first interactive exhibit: Flygirls of WWII, most recently displayed at the Story of Texas Museum in Austin, Texas); designing the first WASP app: Flygirl WWII; and writing the first WASP rap song: We Got The Stuff, The Right Stuff.

Priscilla (Pat) Blum, along with Jay Weinberg, founded Corporate Angel Network (CAN), a 34 year old not for profit organization whose mission is to arrange free travel for cancer patients traveling to and from their treatment centers in the available seats on board corporate jet aircraft. In its first full year, 1982, a dozen corporations flew a total of 23 cancer patient flights. In 2014, 560 corporations signed on as CAN providers and an average of 220 cancer patients were flown each month for an annual total of 2550. The 47,000th cancer patient will be flown in Feb 2015.

Phoebe Omlie: Once one of the most famous women in America, Phoebe Omlie earned the first Commercial Pilot's License by a woman and became a successful air racer. During the New Deal, she held executive positions in federal aeronautics. During the 1920s, she bought a JN-4D and learned how to perform stunts with her future husband Vernon. She danced the Charleston on the top wing, hung by her teeth below the airplane, and performed parachute stunts in the Phoebe Fairgrave Flying Circus.

The Women in Aviation, International Pioneer Hall of Fame was established in 1992 to honor women who have made significant contributions as record setters, pioneers, or innovators. Special consideration is given to individuals or groups who have helped other women be successful in aviation or opened doors of opportunity for other women. Each year, the organization solicits nominations from throughout the aviation industry for the WAI Pioneer Hall of Fame.

The 2015 Conference celebrates 26 years of WAI Conferences. With the theme "Connect, Engage, Inspire," the WAI Conference will include professional development seminars, education sessions, tours, workshops, networking events, speakers, and a commercial exhibit area. The Conference concludes on Saturday evening, March 7, 2015, with WAI's annual banquet where dozens of scholarships are awarded and the four Pioneers are inducted.

Secure online registration is available at, and varied registration options exist. Student rates and military rates make the Conference more affordable. In addition, WAI offers an "Accompanied Child" rate. Conference attendees may register for a full package, a one-day package or simply for specific events. Onsite registration will be available as well.

Women in Aviation, International is a nonprofit 501(C)(3) organization dedicated to providing networking, mentoring and scholarship opportunities for women and men who are striving for challenging and fulfilling careers in the aviation and aerospace industries. For more information, contact WAI at 3647 State Route 503 South, West Alexandria, OH 45381, Phone (937) 839-4647; Fax (937) 839-4645 or through

For more information on Women in Aviation
Connie Lawrence
Women in Aviation International
937-839-4647 Phone
937-839-4645 Fax

For more information on Wings Across America
Nancy Parrish, Director