Mary McCabe was a WASP in World War II.





Mary McCabe, 86, piloted fearless course through life

May 28, 2005

LITTLETON - Mary McCabe was a free spirit who soared through life as she once did through the skies.

She was a WASP during World War II - Women's Air Service Pilot.

She died May 21 of congestive heart disease. She was 86.

She was born March 25, 1919, to William and Catherine Cunningham Koth in a cabin in Liberty Lake, Wash.

"She went to a school with four children, one of whom was her brother," said her daughter, Kathy Lorenz-McCabe, of Hansville, Wash.

Her family settled in Spokane, Wash., during the Great Depression. Her dad was a logger, but no one was buying logs. So her mom ran a boardinghouse.

"Soon after high school, she rode around on a Harley-Davidson. She tooled the state pretty well on that," Lorenz-McCabe said. "She once drove her and her sister to Yellowstone and slept in a farmer's haystack."

Mary and a friend spotted a sign one day offering an airplane flight and lesson for $5.

"She decided she wanted to learn to fly after that," Lorenz-McCabe said.

So Mary worked as a florist, a swimming instructor and a truck driver to pay for lessons and then to pitch in with three other friends to buy their own plane, said another daughter, Sheri Knox, of Denver.

During World War II, the government bought the plane for what Mary and her friends had paid for it. And Mary applied to be a WASP.

"She mostly ferried the planes to free the men up," Lorenz-McCabe said. "She flew a variety of airplanes. She was also a test pilot."

Just before she became a WASP, she was working in a nursing home laundry when she spotted Luke Vincent McCabe, an Army officer.

"That one's mine," she said.

And he was, for 36 years. They were married Dec. 27, 1944, in Spokane. He died of cancer in 1980.

The family moved to Littleton in 1960, when Mr. McCabe was transferred with his civil service job. And Mary tended the family.

"She was a wonderful mom in that she made you feel like her friend as well as your mother," Lorenz-McCabe said.

She imparted lessons, too.

"She taught us primarily that you're in charge of your own life, and it's up to you to make it good. You can't sit around and stir about anything. You have to make the best of it," Lorenz-McCabe said. "I remember she said to me once, 'If you don't enjoy life, it's your own fault.'"

Later, Lorenz-McCabe and her siblings would bring their children for Mary to baby-sit. At first, the children would cry when their parents left. So Mary hit on a plan to get their minds on something else.

"She'd take them outside by a tree and tell them if they watered the tree, it would grow suckers," Lorenz-McCabe said. "Then, when they weren't looking, she'd rubber-band suckers on the branches. Then she'd lift the kids up to pick the suckers. They didn't cry anymore."

In addition to Lorenz-McCabe and Knox, survivors include two other children, Marie Madsen, of Fort Townsend, Wash., and Patrick, of Thornton; 12 grandchildren; and a great-grandchild.

Copyright 2005, Rocky Mountain News.

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