Two Unforgettable Women of WWII

Joy Lofthouse1

At 92, Joy Lofthouse is back in the sky in the fighter plane she loved so much and she hasn’t stopped smiling since.  It was the first time she climbed into the cockpit of a Spitfire in over 70 years.

I know your first thought, “Wait, WOMEN flew fighter planes?”

They sure did! Maybe not in combat, but they fulfilled a vital role in the all-out effort to preserve our freedom in a time when our freedom could not be taken for granted, and the stories of their contributions need to be told!

Lofthouse flew for the British Air Transport Auxiliary, a civilian organization where women learned how to fly every kind of military aircraft imaginable in order to ferry new, repaired and damaged planes between factories, assembly plants, scrapyards and airfields. She was one of fewer than 200 women who would fly the Spitfires back and forth between the front lines and the service factories.

The world certainly has changed in the seven decades since World War II. Soon, all who lived through it will be gone. Which makes Lofthouse even more compelling. Back when she was flying those planes it was rare for anyone to even live to 90. But today, thanks to a combination of genetics, lifestyle and good fortune her memory is razor sharp, she’s still quite spry and open to adventures.

Watch her rekindle old memories in this video captured by the BBC and then read on for another incredible example!

One of the most unforgettable people I’ve ever met is Betty Wall Strohfus. She served in World War II as a WASP, Women Airfare Service Pilot, one of a select group of barrier-breakers, pioneers, role models and heroes, the first women in history trained to fly American military aircraft.

Betty Wall Plane

Now in her early 90s she has the energy of a small power plant. She has spent the last few years making speaking engagements, telling the stories of the WASPs to many who had little idea. During the war she was a hero for courageously breaking gender barriers by going literally where no woman had gone before, and she is a hero now for the inspiration and passion she still has for doing her part and making a difference.

I know you’ll love watching this for her story, her energy and her unique sense of humor!

Two incredible women with important stories to tell, two inspirational role models for what life can be if we’re lucky enough to blessed with health, passion and adventure. Betty Wall Strohfus and Joy Lofthouse, we salute you!!!

 

Does Your Grandma Look Like This?

Iris Davis 16x9Remember when grandmothers were little old ladies who did needlepoint and baked pies? Well, these days those “little old ladies” aren’t in the kitchen anymore. They’ve left to head to the gym. And once there, they’re not just stretchIris Davis Verticaling rubber bands, they’re pumping iron.

Iris Davis is a grandmother. She’s 71 and she is fierce! She once tackled an armed robber on the street trying to flee police.

Far from Lawrence Welk, this grandma’s favorite band is AC/DC. At 5’1″ and less than 100 pounds she’s in the best shape of her life and she wants you to be too.

Iris Davis Posing“I can help anyone get in shape,” she says. “If I can do it, anybody can!”

This eleven-time bodybuilding champion is determined to prove it by working as a fitness trainer. She believes she is uniquely qualified because, as it does for just about anyone who’s been alive long enough, life has presented Iris with her share of challenges. At the age of 45 she contracted encephalitis and was bed-ridden for two years. “Doctors told me I would probably end up in a wheelchair,” she said. “Because many with the disease end up totally disabled.”

Out of desperation she began working out, starting with the lightest weights possible. One year later at the age of 50 she entered her first bodybuilding competition and has been at it ever since.

She believes working out has also helped her battle depression, and helped her recover from a ruptured appendix.

She says people often do a double take when they see her work out, but the biggest benefit to being in shape is not how she looks from the outside, but how she feels from the inside. She believes staying fit has helped her avoid or recover from illness more quickly. She feels strong and confident enough to participate in her grandchildren’s lives in a way that would have been unheard of a generation ago. She believes her flexibility allows her to avoid many of the aches and pains associated with age, and her energy level has her excited to greet each new day.

Bodybuilding certainly isn’t for everybody but doing something to get in shape is. There’s nothing wrong with making pies and doing needlepoint, but throwing in a little extra physical activity can be a life-changer. Even at 71, Davis is looking ahead to new challenges, “I love what I do and plan on never stopping,” she says. “It’s just such a great way to live!”

What a great lesson to learn from a grandma!

Want a Long Life? DON’T Get Married!

Ruth LeiberStaying single is the key to longevity. That is not according to some scientific research, but the opinion of some of the oldest people in the world. It is probably not insignificant that those asked were all women. One was 109. Another was 108.

Emma Morano divorced her husband in 1938 and says it was the best thing that ever happened to her. Now 115, she’s the oldest person in Europe and the third oldest person in the world. She told the New York Times she’s still alive for two reasons: she eats three raw eggs a day, and she has remained single.

The Washington Post had an article that culled together even more examples of centenarians and super centenarians who believe that being unattached has extended their lives.

But when it comes to longevity, no media outlet has more information and expertise than Growing Bolder. Not the Washington Post, not the New York Times. Growing Bolder CEO Marc Middleton is the author of the enlightening book, Rock Stars of Aging, 50 Ways to Live to 100: Lifestyle Secrets of Centenarians.

We have interviewed many of the oldest people on the planet. And yes, there is some support for the idea that longevity and staying single make a great couple. I myself have heard it first-hand, but never more clearly than from a lovely, sharp and very old woman named Ruth Leiber. I was invited to her 110th birthday party where she explained why she believed avoiding the alter extended her life. “Can you think of any married people who have lived this long?”

So, could it be that marriage will kill you? Maybe so. Maybe we should do something about it. Maybe it’s time to think about starting a fundraising campaign, wearing some kind of ribbon or wrist band and holding events to raise money to “cure”marriage. Or maybe not.

I’m not 115 and I’m quite certain I never will be but to me, marriage has been the best and most meaningful part of my life. Has it added stress, enough to perhaps shave years off of my life? Absolutely! But it has given me so much more: a partner to share experiences with, good and bad, a best friend to root for and be with, a solid rock to lean on and the greatest reason of all, a wonderful mother to our son.IMG_2320

Who knows why we live as long as we do? But I do know this. Age is just a number. Life is defined by the tapestry of experiences, emotions and relationships we weave together along our journeys. Could it be that single people do live longer? Perhaps. But I wouldn’t trade the time shared with my wife, even for a few extra decades!

A 102 Year-Old Bold Pilot

Photo: Kin Man Hui, Staff / San Antonio Express-News

Photo: Kin Man Hui, Staff / San Antonio Express-News

Here is a wonderful story from the San Antonio Express News that takes the Growing Bolder philosophy sky high! It’s actually two stories in one, first,  older pilots getting the chance to climb back into the cockpit and second, the intriguing organization that makes it possible.

The organization has a great name, it’s The Ageless Aviation Dreams Foundation. Here’s how they describe themselves on their website:

The Ageless Aviation Dreams Foundation is a non-profit organization established and dedicated to honoring seniors and United States military veterans. The primary focus is on individuals living in long-term care communities. Our mission is to “Give Back To Those Who Have Given”. Through our donors, the Foundation provides Dream Flights in a Boeing Stearman biplane, the same aircraft used to train many military aviators in the 1940’s.

They are a national organization, meaning you might be able to get them to come to you! In this case the Express News followed them to two retirement communities and saw the magic take place first hand, when 102-year-old Retired Air Force test pilot Gerhard Schriever was invited to head back up into the blue.

You can take a look at their article and learn how to perhaps make this happen for some veterans in your area by clicking here.