Gloria L. Nelson Collins, 44-W-9

Gloria Lorraine (Nelson) Collins, 84, died June 19, 2007, at home in Anchorage, surrounded by her family, after a brief illness.

In accordance with her wishes, no funeral is planned. In recognition of her military veteran status, her ashes will be buried at the National Cemetery at Fort Richardson. A celebration of life will be held later this summer.

She was born March 8, 1923, in South Bend, Wash., to Herbert and Ina Bourke Nelson. The youngest of seven children, she graduated from Ocosta High School near Westport, Wash., in 1940. She had a passion for flying airplanes and in 1944 entered the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) program. Her family wrote: "These were the first women pilots in our nation's history trained to fly military aircraft, and they flew every type of American military aircraft during World War II. These civilian women completed, in nine months, the same pilot training as men in the military completed in 13 months. Of more than 25,000 women who applied for this program, 1,830 were accepted, but only 1,074 completed the training. Gloria graduated with the class of 44-W-9 at Avenger Field in Sweetwater, Texas. The program was deactivated as the war ended. In 1977, the women who had completed the WASP program were awarded military veteran status."

Following graduation from the WASP, Gloria was assigned to operations at Merced Army Air Base in Merced, Calif., where she flew AT-6s. After the WASP program was deactivated, she worked as a civilian instructor pilot in Spokane, Wash. Later, she started the Sea Treats seafood gift and mail order business for Nelson Crab Co. in Tokeland, Wash.

In 1947, she met and married Lt. Mandle "Rip" Collins, an Army Air Corps pilot, and moved to Florida. She continued working with Sea Treats for several years, until devoting her time to raising a family. In 1954, they moved to Moses Lake, Wash., and in 1960 to Tacoma, Wash., following her husband's Air Force career.

After he retired, they moved to Anchorage in 1968, where she was a homemaker. In 1981, after her family was grown, she became a real estate agent. She retired in the mid 1980s to join her husband in retirement activities, with favorites being gardening, fishing, and camping. Gloria was intrigued by growing plants; her last new project this summer was to try to grow a watermelon in their new greenhouse. She loved music and discussing current political and financial events.

Gloria was a member of the Women Airforce Service Pilots organization, and she was honored to be featured in the limited edition book "WWII Airmen: On Common Ground" by Doug Allen, published in 2005.

Her family said: "Gloria loved her family above all else in this world. Kind, compassionate and spirited, she always put others before herself. People enjoyed her keen intelligence, gentle humor, and incredible energy. Her strength, determination, and great courage are an inspiration to us all. She always seemed indestructible. Her loss will be felt by all who knew her, especially her many wonderful friends and WASP classmates. We miss her beautiful smile, her warmth, and most of all, the love she showed us every day."

She is survived by her husband, Mandle "Rip" Collins of Anchorage; her daughters, Gloria Ann Collins and Deborah L. Collins, both of Anchorage; and many nieces and nephews.

Condolences may be sent to
Local arrangements are with Witzleben Family Funeral Home & Crematory.

Published in the Anchorage Daily News on 6/30/2007.



In her own words from "Class 44-W-9 Women Airforce Service Pilots WWII W.A.S.P" book--compiled and edited by WASP Betty Turner

"I was born on March 8, 1923 in South Bend, Washington. My mother was Ina Sydney Bourke Nelson, and my father was Herbert Earl Nelson. I am the youngest of seven children. I have four brothers: Melvin, Earnest, Chris and Raymond. I also have two sisters: Sylvia and Kathren.

In 1929, our family moved to Tokeland, a resort and fishing village on the West Coast of Washington State. It was there that I had the exhilarating experience of my first plane ride at fifteen years of age, which left a lasting impression!

After reading several articles about the WASP program, I began a 15-month campaign to gain acceptance. Because civilian flying was prohibited in my area, I went to Blythe, California to get the required flying time. As a result of leaving home, I lost my office job which led to some very severe financial setbacks. However the obstacles and problems I encountered became worthwhile after I arrived at Avenger Field to begin training.

After graduation, i was assigned to operations at Merced Army Air Base in California, where we flew AT-6's. When the WASP program was deactivated, I moved to Spokane, Washington and worked as a flight instructor. I finally realized I would never become rich at $3.00 per hour.

I returned to Tokeland in 1946 and established a seafood gift and mail order business in conjunction with my father's seafood processing plant. The enterprise flourished far beyond my expectations, but I gave it up in 1950 due to other priorities. Namely, my marriage to Rip Collins in 1947 and a 6-month old baby daughter.

Rip was a flight instructor in B-24's and B-29's and flew B-29's in the South Pacific during WWII. After being recalled to active duty during the Korean conflict, he elected to make a career of the Air Force. He retired at McChord AFB, Washington, in 1964.

In 1968, Rip accepted an assignment as an Air Carrier Operations Inspector with the FAA in Anchorage, Alaska. He retired in 1984. I sold real estate for five years during the 1980's but gave it up after Rip retired, because my job was interfering with our motor home excursions and fishing trips.

We have two daughters, Gloria Ann and Debbie, who also reside in Anchorage.

I am very grateful for this opportunity to say THANK YOU to those who have worked so hard to hold the WASP group together throughout the years. I also want to say how proud I am to have been, and to be, associated with everyone in this organization."



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posted  June 19, 2007