Winifred “Win” Wood passed away in the early morning hours of Thursday, Aug. 6, 2009.
Win was born in Macon, Ga., the youngest girl among five children. She spent her early years in Coral Gables, Fla., where she graduated from Ponce de Leon High School and majored in English and history at the University of Miami. She was a member of Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority. After graduation, she worked as a German translator at the Censorship Bureau and as a Link instructor at Embrey Riddle.
Win learned to fly because all her friends were flying. She took lessons at a seaplane base in Miami and was accepted into the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) training program in Class 43-7. After graduation, she was stationed at Mather Field, Calif., completing B-25 school. She was then transferred to Biggs Field, El Paso, Texas, to fly B-25s as a tow target pilot.
Even before the WASPs were disbanded in December 1944, Winnie began writing a book, “We Were WASPs,” completing it in 1945. The book, featuring the drawings of her great friend, WASP Dot Swain Lewis, is now in its third printing.
After the WASPs, Winnie earned a master’s degree from the University of Miami and taught elementary school in California and then in Europe.
Returning to the states, she taught at Idyllwild Elementary School for many years and later in San Marcos, remaining close to former students throughout her life.
In an interview with Texas Women’s University Oral History Project, she said “I enjoyed my WASP time. I love the friends I made and I enjoyed the flying, but I wasn’t dying because I wasn’t flying anymore. And I thoroughly enjoyed teaching. That was a challenge to me, which I loved.”
In Idyllwild, she was active in the community, working in real estate, serving on the Fire Commission board, and writing for the Town Crier. After retiring from teaching in San Marcos, she moved back to Idyllwild in 1986 to live with her friend, Dot Swain Lewis.
Winnie was an enthusiastic supporter of the WASP organization and participated regularly in national and regional reunions. She was proud when the WASPs were finally recognized as veterans in 1977, when Dot’s statue commemorating the WASPs was placed in the Honor Court at the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1997 and this year when Congress voted to award them the Congressional Gold Medal.
In 2006, Winnie moved into The Village in Hemet where she made many friends and was writing a murder mystery set in a retirement home. One of her greatest sources of pride was the appointment of her niece, Janet Reno, as attorney general in the Clinton Administration.
In 1994, Winnie wrote an epilogue for “We Were WASPs.” In those final pages, she talked about America’s newfound interest in the WASPs. Her friend, Kaddy Steele, who had taken her last flight with Winnie in a B-25, joked that they were becoming “living legends.”
“Living legends!” wrote Winnie, “I cannot believe that any of us, as we marched to flight line, worried about check rides or wrestled with our zoot suits, thought we would ever deserve such a label. Still, it has a nice ring to it.”
It does indeed.
Winnie leaves her brother George of Bangor, Maine, numerous nieces and nephews, and many dear friends.