Jean McFarland Koehler


Jean was born on January 12, 1919 in Minneapolis, Minnesota but grew up in Seattle, Washington. As she later said of Seattle, "there was a great feeling of water, sky and mountains."

When Pearl Harbor was bombed, she was working at McCord Field. She wanted to learn to fly, but was unable to join the Civilian Pilot Training School at the Univ. of Washington because civilians were not allowed to fly within 100 miles of the Pacific Coast, so she would take a bus for 100 miles, over to Yakima, to take flying lessons.

Meantime, she worked for a large shipbuilder as Production Illustrator to assist workers that did not read Marine blueprints.

She heard of the WASP, applied for the flying training program for women pilots at Avenger Field and was accepted. When she graduated, she received her silver WASP wings and orders to report to Aloe Army Air Field in Victoria, Texas. She was assigned as an AT-6 tow target pilot. Later she was transferred to Harlingen Army Air Field, Texas to learn to fly the B-26 and tow targets. After the WASP were disbanded, she attended the University of Alaska and worked part time at Alaska Airlines, rebuilding bush pilot planes.

During the summer, while working for a company on the Bering Sea, she was able to check out in a sea plane. She met her husband while working for Pan American at Boeing Field in Seattle. As her children grew up, she worked part time, but later worked full time as a nurse at Stanford University Hospital!


Her life was filled with learning, painting, gardening, camping, quilting, swimming and staying active. As she once wrote: "Life is too short for all I would like to accomplish." Yet she accomplished so much, including a legacy of 3 children, 9 grandchildren, and 5 great-grandchildren.

A gracious and sweet lady, Jean came to the WASP Museum at Avenger Field and put her hands in cement on May 27, 2005. She died November 23, 2007.

It is an honor to have known her.