Monday, March 15, 2010

"The 38" WASP Posthumously honored

There are only about 300 surviving WASP who received (or will receive) Congressional Medals thanking them for their service during World War II. However, the WASP who have passed away were honored as well, including the 38 who died during the war.

One of these was Marian Toevs, and her story was told by the Fresno Bee today.

WWII honors rekindle a family's bond with lost kin
When Congress honored the female pilots of World War II by awarding them gold medals last week, one posthumous honoree was Marian Toevs (rhymes with waves,) who died in a plane crash while assigned to Lemoore Army Air Base.

She was one of 38 "fly girls" who died flying in the Women Airforce Service Pilots program.

The Bee morgue has this Feb. 18, 1944 story with a San Jose dateline: Crash Kills Woman Pilot.

"A 26-year-old woman pilot of the Army's ferry command died in the crash of a single engined military plane near here today.

"She was identified by Otto Toevs, a resident near the scene of the accident, as his niece, Mariam Toevs, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. John E. Toevs of Aberdeen, Ida."

The ceremony in the nation's capital has revived her memory for her family.

"She was very athletic," said younger cousin Margie Chally, who lives in Davis and grew up with Marian in Idaho. "She was quite involved in school sports in Aberdeen. She was on the basketball team, she was a swimmer and she played tennis."

After teachers college, Marian taught in White Salmon, Wash.

"She got the bug that she wanted to fly," Chally said. "She was a pretty determined woman."

She took lessons, got into the WASP program and was assigned to Lemoore on Dec. 17, 1943, flying BT-13 bomber trainers around.

Sadly, the plane crashed near the home of her aunt and uncle near San Jose.

Her aunt "went out there and held her in her arms when she breathed her last," Chally said. Chally said she doesn't know what caused the crash, but family members were told that BT-13 aircraft were difficult to control. Marian was one of only two WASPs trained to fly the aircraft, a family member said.

"Her death was incredibly hard for my grandmother," said nephew Gordon Toevs, 58, of Washington, D.C., born after the war. "She was the only daughter."

Gordon and a cousin attended Wednesday's ceremony and received the gold medal on behalf of the Toevs family. The invitation, from Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, arrived in Aberdeen.

Nephew Ritchey Toevs, 55, a potato farmer in Aberdeen, said Marian taught in rural Idaho, and he has met people who were her students.

"They all mention how fun she was, how much they enjoyed her," he said.

Ritchey gave his youngest daughter the middle name Marian in honor of the aunt he never knew.

The gold medal has given the family a new appreciation for her, he said: "Even I, 67 years later, now feel an unexpected bond to Marian."

Mar 3, 1944 newspaper account of her funeral


Cheryl Marie said...

From the niece of one of the 38 WASP KIA, I appreciate your blog. I have linked it to mine, and hope others will also enjoy and learn from it.

Jerry Reid Clayson said...

Even though I grew up in Aberdeen and knew her family, I was not aware of this story. I really enjoyed the quick wit and Dr humor of her father John E. Her brother was my first little league coach. Jerry Clayson