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Trailblazing pilot celebrates milestone

Posted at 6:29 PM, Apr 07, 2021

ARANSAS PASS, TEXAS — A trailblazer in the sky, who paved the way for women fliers for the generations which followed, recently celebrated a milestone.

Maxine Flournoy never went overseas, instead she helped pick up the slack left behind by the men who did. She also recently turned 100-years-old.

Her head wasn’t always in the clouds. Born Maxine Edmonson in 1921, Flournoy first got bit by the flying bug in college.

“I was going to Joplin Junior College and they offered a course in it,” said Flournoy. “They let a few women in, so I applied and got in that way.”

She received her pilot’s license as the U.S. entered World War II. Shortly after, Flournoy was approached by a recruiter for the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots, or WASPs. Roughly 22,000 women applied to be a WASP, only 1,100 were picked, Flournoy among them.

Her new mission, fly in place of male pilots, now serving overseas.

“The war was on and everybody was patriotic,” said Flournoy.

Her daughters grew up with that patriotism.

“We used to go to conventions with our mother, they were all so patriotic,” said Betty Flournoy Fields. “And healthy, a lot of them have lived long, fulfilling lives.”

Flournoy kept flying after the war, eventually getting a job with an oil man in Alice.

“That's how she met my dad,” said Helen Flournoy Pope. “He told my dad he wanted him to meet his pilot, he didn't know it was a girl.”

These days Flournoy keeps her feet on the ground. The 3rd Coast Squadron of the Commemorative Air Force honors Flournoy with a hangar and museum in her name.

As Flournoy starts her second century, she proves you're only as old as you feel.

“I don't feel old, I don't think I look too old,” said Flournoy.

Even though she lived in Jim Wells County, Nueces County Commissioners recently honored Flournoy by designating March 30 of this year, her 100th birthday, as Maxine Flournoy Day.