by Susan Bane Summers
My grandmother Elizabeth "Liz" Harmon Bane earned her WASP wings on August 7, 1943 at Avenger Field in Sweetwater, Texas. She began flying while attending the University of Alabama and had well over the required flight hours before heading to Texas.
During her training she flew the PT-19, AT-6, AT-10, BT-13 and twin engine Beech UC-78. Her assignments included Love Field, Dallas, Texas; Gunter Army Air Field, Montgomery, Alabama; Randolph Army Air Base, Universal City, Texas; Eagle Pass Army Air Base, Eagle Pass, Texas.
During her service, Liz met my grandfather, Major Mark C. Bane, Jr. and they married at Gunter-Maxwell Field in Alabama. Mark served until 1969 and the couple spent many years abroad including in Occupied Japan after the war. They raised four children; Liz, Laurie, Mark Jr. & Helen.
My grandmother was a strong, determined woman who approached everything she did in life with perfection, zest and enthusiasm. She was an amazing mother, gardener, talented chef, always stylishly color coordinated and loved taking me shopping for clothes when I visited. I'm the youngest girl of six so her distaste of me in my brothers' hand-me-downs worked out well for my dress wardrobe. She "spoiled me ripe", called me 'little fish' because I loved swimming and the water and let me climb up in her lap and fall asleep long after I had grown too big to do so.
We lost my grandmother to cancer my freshman year of college. Her passion for life, learning and flight lived on and inspired her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren to this very day. In fact, one of her great granddaughters has completed over 1,000 hours of flight training at the age of 12.
My grandparents had a set of portraits of them painted in Japan in 1949 and today they hang in my dining room. I think of them both every day. I can hear my grandmother complimenting my cooking, telling me to stand up straight and watching over my children she never got to meet.