Sunday, December 4, 2011

Cornelia Fort's family, friends donate funds to save open land

Before sharing the article, here's a bio of Cornelia Fort from Wikipedia:
Cornelia Clark Fort (Feb 5, 1919–Mar 21 1943) was an aviator in the Women's Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron (WAFS) (later merged with the Women Airforce Service Pilots), who became the first female pilot in American history to die on active duty.

Early life and career
Fort was born to a wealthy and prominent Nashville, Tennessee, family; her father, Rufus Elijah Fort, was a founder of National Life and Accident Insurance Company. She graduated from Sarah Lawrence College in 1939. After college, Fort would join the Junior League of Nashville. She showed an early interest in flying, ultimately training for and earning her pilot's license in Hawaii.

Pearl Harbor attack
While working as a civilian pilot instructor at Pearl Harbor, Cornelia Fort inadvertently became one of the first witnesses to the Japanese Attack on Pearl Harbor that brought the United States into World War II. On December 7, 1941, Fort was in the air near Pearl Harbor teaching takeoffs and landings to a student pilot in an Interstate Cadet monoplane. Hers and a few other civilian aircraft were the only U.S. planes in the air near the harbor at that time. Fort saw a military airplane flying directly toward her and swiftly grabbed the controls from her student to pull up over the oncoming craft.

It was then she saw the rising sun insignia on the wings. Within moments, she saw billows of black smoke coming from Pearl Harbor and bombers flying in. She quickly landed the plane at John Rodgers civilian airport near the mouth of Pearl Harbor. The pursuing Zero strafed her plane and the runway as she and her student ran for cover. The airport manager was killed and two other civilian planes did not return that morning.

Military service
With all civilian flights grounded in Hawaii, Fort returned to the mainland in early 1942. She made a short movie promoting war bonds that was successful and led to speaking engagements. Later that year, Nancy Love recruited her to serve in the newly established Women's Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron (WAFS), precursor to the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP). She was the second woman accepted into the service. The WAFS ferried military planes to bases within the United States.

Death
Stationed at the 6th Ferrying Group base at Long Beach, California, Cornelia Fort became the first WAFS fatality on March 21, 1943 when another plane being ferried by a male pilot struck the left wing of the BT-13 she was ferrying in a mid-air collision ten miles south of Merkel, Texas. At the time of the accident, Cornelia Fort was one of the most accomplished pilots of the WAFS. The footstone of her grave is inscribed, "Killed in the Service of Her Country."

Legacy
Cornelia Fort was portrayed in the film Tora, Tora, Tora by Jeff Donnell [real name Jean, but the actress preferred her nickname, Jeff, after the character from the Mutt and Jeff comic strip].

The Cornelia Fort Airpark in East Nashville is named after her.

From The Tennessean: Cornelia
Fort's family, friends donate funds to save open land
More than $200,000 has been donated to protect open land in Nashville by family and friends of Cornelia Fort, the first woman pilot to die on war duty in American history.

The gift that will help replenish Metro’s Open Space Fund was announced Thursday morning at the 135-acre Cornelia Fort Airpark in East Nashville.

The airpark property, which cost $1.2 million, was the first acquisition for Nashville’s Open Space Plan and has expanded the Shelby Bottoms park system to more than 1,300 acres. It also provides a northern entrance to the park.

A second purchase — the 181-acre Ravenwood Country Club at $2.8 million — goes before the Metro Council on Dec. 6, for the second of three required approvals.

Mayor Karl Dean thanked the members of the Fort family and friends Thursday for “their generosity and dedication to conserving nature and history.”

“Not only is the airport property a prime example of what our Open Space Plan aims to accomplish, the public-private partnership supporting this acquisition is a model for how we want to engage the private sector in raising funds for public land conservation going forward,” he said.

The donation for the Open Space Fund was organized by The Land Trust for Tennessee, which is the leading private fundraiser for the city’s Open Space Plan.

The plan is part of Dean’s push to make the city greener, encouraging such things as green roofs, tree planting and preservation of land to make waterways and air cleaner and to draw people outdoors.
Endowments grow

Such efforts are a trend nationwide.

The gathering beside the now-closed tarmac and empty hangars came the day after The Land Trust Alliance released a national census showing that endowments to protect lands have more than doubled from 2005 to 2010.

Ten million new acres were conserved, despite a slow economy.

“Communities nationwide value clean water, local food and places to play, and they are investing in those places close to home,” said Rand Wentworth, president of the alliance.

Local land trusts are saving more land while federal funding and purchases for such acquisitions are shrinking, he said.

Dean unveiled the Open Space Plan last April, which calls for 3,000 acres of parkland to be added in the next 10 years. It advocates for conservation of 22,000 acres of public and private land over 25 years. The mayor included $5 million in Metro’s 2010 capital spending plan for acquisitions.

The Metro Parks Department will seek public input on the design and programs for the airpark and Ravenwood properties, according to the mayor’s office.
'A path less traveled'

Cornelia Fort, one of Nashville’s most famous residents, had grown up in a well-to-do family and was a member of the Junior League and a debutante.

She preferred, however, moving down a path less traveled. After her father, Rufus Fort, pressed his three sons never to take to the sky in an airplane, she did, said her niece Julia Fort Lowe of Cookeville.

Lowe attended the event Thursday along with her brother Garth Fort of St. Louis, and Nashvillian Stroud Merritt, a great-nephew of Cornelia Fort.

Tish Fort of Nashville, another niece who was in the tree-rimmed airpark, said she couldn’t be happier at the preservation of the land there.

“My regret is, of course, that Cornelia’s not here and that our daddies aren’t here to see not only the Fort name honored but their sister honored.”

Cornelia Fort grew up on a cattle farm estate that once covered part of Shelby Bottoms. She was delivering a plane cross-country in 1943 when another plane touched hers.

The other pilot bailed out, but Cornelia Fort died. She was 24.

More than $200,000 has been donated to protect open land in Nashville by family and friends of Cornelia Fort, the first woman pilot to die on war duty in American history.

The gift that will help replenish Metro’s Open Space Fund was announced Thursday morning at the 135-acre Cornelia Fort Airpark in East Nashville.

The airpark property, which cost $1.2 million, was the first acquisition for Nashville’s Open Space Plan and has expanded the Shelby Bottoms park system to more than 1,300 acres. It also provides a northern entrance to the park.

A second purchase — the 181-acre Ravenwood Country Club at $2.8 million — goes before the Metro Council on Dec. 6, for the second of three required approvals.

Mayor Karl Dean thanked the members of the Fort family and friends Thursday for “their generosity and dedication to conserving nature and history.”

“Not only is the airport property a prime example of what our Open Space Plan aims to accomplish, the public-private partnership supporting this acquisition is a model for how we want to engage the private sector in raising funds for public land conservation going forward,” he said.

The donation for the Open Space Fund was organized by The Land Trust for Tennessee, which is the leading private fundraiser for the city’s Open Space Plan.

The plan is part of Dean’s push to make the city greener, encouraging such things as green roofs, tree planting and preservation of land to make waterways and air cleaner and to draw people outdoors.
Endowments grow

Such efforts are a trend nationwide.

The gathering beside the now-closed tarmac and empty hangars came the day after The Land Trust Alliance released a national census showing that endowments to protect lands have more than doubled from 2005 to 2010.

Ten million new acres were conserved, despite a slow economy.

“Communities nationwide value clean water, local food and places to play, and they are investing in those places close to home,” said Rand Wentworth, president of the alliance.

Local land trusts are saving more land while federal funding and purchases for such acquisitions are shrinking, he said.

Dean unveiled the Open Space Plan last April, which calls for 3,000 acres of parkland to be added in the next 10 years. It advocates for conservation of 22,000 acres of public and private land over 25 years. The mayor included $5 million in Metro’s 2010 capital spending plan for acquisitions.

The Metro Parks Department will seek public input on the design and programs for the airpark and Ravenwood properties, according to the mayor’s office.
'A path less traveled'

Cornelia Fort, one of Nashville’s most famous residents, had grown up in a well-to-do family and was a member of the Junior League and a debutante.

She preferred, however, moving down a path less traveled. After her father, Rufus Fort, pressed his three sons never to take to the sky in an airplane, she did, said her niece Julia Fort Lowe of Cookeville.

Lowe attended the event Thursday along with her brother Garth Fort of St. Louis, and Nashvillian Stroud Merritt, a great-nephew of Cornelia Fort.

Tish Fort of Nashville, another niece who was in the tree-rimmed airpark, said she couldn’t be happier at the preservation of the land there.

“My regret is, of course, that Cornelia’s not here and that our daddies aren’t here to see not only the Fort name honored but their sister honored.”

Cornelia Fort grew up on a cattle farm estate that once covered part of Shelby Bottoms. She was delivering a plane cross-country in 1943 when another plane touched hers.

The other pilot bailed out, but Cornelia Fort died. She was 24.

No comments: