Thursday, October 15, 2009

"Auntie Mame" Recieves Nation's Highest Civilian Honor

She's really my great-aunt Dorothy Jean, youngest sister of my maternal grandmother, and she's 91 years young. Some years ago, she was standing next to a furnace when it exploded and burned off her face. When her brand new skin grew in, it was soft as a baby's and wrinkle-free, so she looked REALLY YOUNG!

She's a "character"; she's what one person on the Internet called "a Renaissance woman," if that's not an oxymoron.  I suppose her own family, back in the days, would have regarded her as a black sheep; she's an atheist and, it used to be whispered, a "Pinko," which meant a Communist sympathizer. She also married Uncle Sam, a Jew.  Others in her contemporary family might consider her a herione, for doing all sorts of things ladies were not supposed to do, such as fly airplanes and earn several postgraduate degrees in college and get divorced. She worked a long time as a chemist and then went into counselling and wrote a book called, Is Living Killing You? about self-defeating behaviors and how to overcome them.  She protested the Vietnam war; I remember her riding to the Pentagon to do this, with Dad, in his car.  He went in to work there and she, to protest.  Afterward, they both rode home together.  She once rafted down the Colorado River with Dad, too. 

She and her husband, Sam Eppstein, built their Frank Lloyd Wright house with their own four hands and I remember staying in it, and how different it seemed from any house I'd ever been in...

In World War II, she was a WASP (Women's Airforce Service Pilot).

I've just learned that on July 4, the President awarded all the WASPs the Congressional Gold Medal.

Here's part the NPR story:

July 4, 2009
President Obama signed a bill Wednesday granting the Congressional Gold Medal to a group of women most Americans have never heard of: the Women Airforce Service Pilots, or WASP.

These were the first women to fly military aircraft. During World War II, they volunteered for noncombat duty, as test pilots and trainers. They freed up their male counterparts to go to Europe and fight in the war.

But even though they wore uniforms and worked on bases, they were never considered members of the military. Their contribution to the war effort was so controversial, in fact, that all records pertaining to their service were sealed and deemed classified in 1944. That pretty much consigned the WASP to the dustbin of history for decades...
Somebody apparently has made a 45-minute video of my great-aunt's life; here is a trailer lasting a minute and a half.

The Life of Dorothy Jean Dodd Eppstein from mel halbach on Vimeo.



DebD said...

yeah for you great-Aunt Dorothy! What a great story.

elizabeth said...

Wow! She sure did a lot of things - thanks for sharing about her life.