FLORENCE (PAT) LAWLER
ROBERSON, 87, formerly of Bullard, Texas, left this earth on
December 4, 2003, from Fort Worth, Texas, to make her last
flight through the clouds into Heaven.
Pat was born Florence
Elizabeth Lawler in Beardstown, Illinois on January 3, 1916, and
grew up there and in North Dakota where her parents moved the
family to stake out a homestead. She and her brothers, Jim and
Bud, grew up knowing hard work and a simple life. After
graduating high school, Pat continued her education in Macomb,
Illinois, to become a registered nurse. She found a meaningful
vocation in caring for people and continued doing so until she
became American Airlines’ first red-headed stewardess. She
absolutely loved airplanes and the traveling opportunities this
growing industry afforded.
As much as Pat enjoyed being a stewardess,
she was not content with simply assisting passengers and handing
out pillows. When the call went out that Uncle Sam needed women
pilots to free up men to go off to war, Pat, in a rare act of
disobedience, ignored airline rules forbidding stewardesses from
taking flying lessons. She was one of thousands about whom
Eleanor Roosevelt, in 1942, said, “This is not a time when women
should be patient. We are in a war and we need to fight it with
all our ability and every weapon possible. Women pilots, in
this particular case, are a weapon waiting to be used.”
Pat logged the 100
requisite flying hours in short order so as to be eligible for
training as one of the Women Airforce Service Pilots.
Twenty-five thousand women applied, 1,857 were accepted, and
Pat was proudly and humbly one of only 1078 who graduated and
flew for our country. She graduated in the WASP class of 43-2,
and proceeded to ferry airplanes from point to point within the
United States and Canada. Flying the P-39 was her favorite.
Men didn’t like that plane so much, she said, but she liked its
small size, and she loved flying through clouds. She flew until
the WASP were disbanded in 1944, then continued to serve her
country as a flight nurse in the Army until 1946.
After leaving the service,
Pat married another pilot, Army Airforce Captain Richard
Roberson, whom she met while taking pilot lessons. Over time
and moves between New York and Texas, they had three daughters,
Gayle, Michele and Teresa.
Pat and her husband lived in Tyler until 1974 when she
moved with Dick to Chad, Africa, where he took a position as
pilot for Conoco Oil. She so enjoyed her time there, being able
to travel and learn about foreign cultures and religions, but in
1978, while on an R&R in the States, Dick required a quadruple
bypass; he died three weeks later.
After one last trip to Africa to pack up and
say her goodbyes, Pat moved to their newly-built log house on
Lake Palestine and resumed her career as an RN at Mother Frances
Hospital where she worked in the Intensive Care Unit until she
turned 75. She thought it best to turn the work over to younger
Upon retirement, Pat
volunteered for PATH to teach the English language to
Spanish-speaking adults and also involved herself with His
House. She had genuine compassion for her fellow human beings,
and helping where she could at the AIDS hospice was something
she was glad to do.
Dementia gradually robbed
Pat of many memories during her last several years, but not of
her sense of humor or of her knowledge of the English language.
She could not remember her age when asked, but would not
hesitate to gently reprimand anyone dangling a participle. Her
heart and her smile were as big as Texas; she never raised her
voice in anger and had nary a bad word to say about anyone. Pat
regularly attended the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception
and cherished her Catholic faith.
Pat is buried next to her
husband in South Park Memorial Park in Houston. She is survived
by her three daughters and by her grandchildren, Rebecca
Perlmutter, Jedediah Perlmutter and Billie Rae Perlmutter, all
of whom loved her dearly and will miss her more than words can
tell. She is truly our hero and will remain in our hearts.