Trailblazing World War II pilot Dawn Seymour dies at 100
By JULIE SHERWOOD | Daily Messenger, Canandaigua, N.Y. (Tribune News Service) | Published: July 24, 2017
Dawn Seymour, one of a select group of women pilots during World War II whose service earned her accolades including a place in the National Women's Hall of Fame, died peacefully Tuesday at her Canandaigua Lake home. She was 100.
Seymour was one of the 1,102 women who served as a WASP during World War II and among a small number of Women's Airforce Service Pilots to complete training on the four-engine B-17 bomber. Seymour and her fellow WASPs flew bombers and other warplanes in the U.S. to free up male pilots for combat service overseas.
"There were two motivations of the WASPs," Seymour told the Daily Messenger in 2015 from her home above Canandaigua Lake. "To serve our country and to help win the war."
That they did, covering 60 million miles of operation flights in 78 different types of military aircraft.
Throughout her lifetime, Seymour worked to preserve and honor the legacy of the WASP.
In 1939, she was the first woman accepted into the Civilian Pilot Training Program at Cornell University. After the war she threw her energy into numerous projects. Those included establishing a WASP endowment fund, arranging for WASP bronze plaques and dedications, managing the generation and placement of WASP memorials, and motivating people of all ages through talks and presentations. She led a campaign and petitioned the U.S. Postal Service to issue a commemorative stamp honoring Jacqueline Cochran, considered one of the most gifted pilots of her generation and the WASP founder and director who gave Seymour her WASP silver wings in 1943.
"The closer I got to the action, the better I felt," Seymour recalled of her wartime service during that 2015 interview.
In 1982, Dawn Seymour was elected the first president of WASP World War II Inc. She later wrote and published a booklet honoring the 38 WASP who died in service. In 2010, she participated in ceremonies honoring the WASP, receiving the Congressional Gold Medal — the nation's highest civilian award given by Congress — and taking part in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Air Force Memorial to honor the 38 WASP who died in service.
Last week, Seymour was among the female aviators honored during the National Warplane Museum air show in Geneseo.
A memorial service to celebrate her life will be held Monday, July 24, at 4:30 p.m. at Third Presbyterian Church, corner of Meigs St. & East Ave., Rochester. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the National WASP WWII Museum, P.O. Box 456, Sweetwater, TX 79556. Arrangements are by Johnson-Kennedy Funeral Home, Inc., Canandaigua. Condolences may be offered at www.johnsonkennedy.com.
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