FSHA alumna shares WWII pilot experience

Beverly “Bev” Beesemyer

One of Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy’s oldest alumna at 95, Beverly “Bev” Beesemyer visited the La Cañada Flintridge campus March 12 to speak to students about her experiences as part of the Women Air Service Pilots (WASP) organization during WWII.

Beesemyer, a member of FSHA’s class of ’37, recalled her training in Sweetwater, Texas, close encounters while flying gunnery targets, and the camaraderie of the female pilots in the WASP program, which ran from 1943 until the end of 1944, created so women pilots could free male pilots for military service.

Twice her plane caught on fire while in the air, resulting in emergency landings. Of those harrowing adventures, Beesemyer said, “Even with fire engines racing down the fields as I touched down, I thought it was all kind of fun!”

Though they lived in barracks and received similar military training, the WASPs were considered civilians and they often struggled to finance basic necessities, like uniforms.

As civilians, the women also had to handle tragedies on their own. Beesemyer recounted how, when a WASP was killed while serving, all the women pooled their money together to be able to send the body back to family members.

Denied official recognition for decades, the WASP organization was granted full military status in 1977. In 2010, the WASPs received the Congressional Gold Medal, one of the highest civilian awards in the United States. Beesemyer was on hand to receive the award presented in Congress’ Rotunda.

“I cried. I really did,” said Beesemyer. “Thousands of people were there. It was very sentimental.”

Beesemyer kept her pilot’s license until the ’80s and confesses to “rubbernecking” anytime a big plane flies by. “It’s impossible to tell you what it’s like flying in the clouds,” she said.

But, her overall message to the students at FSHA was about taking risks. “I was just a little girl with an opportunity,” Beesemyer told the audience. “Be yourself, and do what you want to do, and don’t ever hesitate going gung-ho for what you desire.”


Voices

In our time

Archbishop José H. Gomez

As I write, I’ve just read the sad news that 90 Christians have been kidnapped from two villages in Syria. Of course we were all shocked earlier this month by the news that 21 Coptic Christians were executed in Syria — killed, as Pope Francis said, “for the mere fact of being Christians.” 

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March 1, 2015

  • Sunday, March 1

    Special Needs Mass, 10 a.m., Father Maguire Council Hall, 4315 N. Vincent Ave, Covina.Mass for persons with physical and intellectual disabilities, their families and caregivers. For more information, contact Elizabeth, (909) 599-9833, ebinerfamily@gmail.com.

    Don Bosco Tech Spring Open House, Mass: 10 a.m., Open House: 12-3 p.m., Don Bosco Technical Institute, 1151 San Gabriel Blvd., Rosemead. (626) 940-2000. www.boscotech.edu.

    Third Order Lay Carmelite Community Q & A Meeting, 1-4 p.m., St. Jane Frances de Chantal Church, 12930 Hamlin St., North Hollywood. The Order is located throughout the Los Angeles area and open to new membership.  If interested in the ancient tradition of contemplative prayer, community and service, come and have your questions answered. For moreinformation, contact Regional Director Herman Briones, (818) 521-6564.

    Stations of the Cross, 2 p.m., Calvary Cemetery, 4201 Whittier Blvd., East Los Angeles. Every Sunday through March 22. (323) 261-3106. 
    http://catholiccemeteriesla.org/stations.

    “Who is this Jesus you see?,” 2-4 p.m., Master Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center, 700 N Sunnyside Ave., Sierra Madre. Presented by Dr. Michael Downey. Freewill donation. 

    Families to the Max: Be a Catholic Family, 2-5:30 p.m., Father Kolbe Missionaries of the Immaculata, 531 East Merced Avenue, West Covina. For more information, contact Ann O’Donnell, (626) 917-0040.

    Rosary and Mass for Life, Rosary: 4:30 p.m., Mass: 5 p.m., St. Cornelius Church, 5500 E Wardlow Rd., Long Beach. Contact Sylvia Aimerito (562) 429-1965. Audiogirlministries.com.

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