Faribault Dedicates Airport Liz Wall Strohfus Field
A hangar at the Faribault Municipal Airport Liz Wall Strohfus Field held an estimated 400 people for Saturday's dedication of the added name to the airport.
Minnesota U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar delivered the keynote address, and it was clear she did get to know Strohfus before her passing in March of last year at age 95.
She opened her presentation by saying, "We are here to dedicate this field to a true hero who is an inspiration to women everywhere. A proud service member and a pilot who loved flying as much as anyone. Maybe even more."
Klobuchar shared a few "Liz" stories with the crowd, including this one when she was still serving as a Women's Air Service Pilot (WASP).
"A man from Faribault tried to convince her to marry him. She said yes and went to her commander ready to resign. But the commander didn't want to give her up and convinced her to sit on the decision until she had the chance to fly a new plane. After she came down from flying that plane she called off the engagement."
Strohfus taught instrument flight to several male cadets while serving as a WASP and said, "Boy could I fly circles around those guys."
In the 1970s she lobbied Congress to recognize WASP members as veterans and Klobuchar noted, "due in part to her work, Congress did pass a law that got those heroes the recognition that they deserved."
After her retirement in the late '80s she traveled the country and shared her story with schools and organizations interested in learning more about the WASP contributions during World War II.
Klobuchar worked with Strohfus in her final years to get legislation passed allowing WASP members to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery and repeated a comment made by Strohfus, "they should be allowed to be buried wherever they damn please, they're veterans." The Minnesota U.S. senator apologized for swearing but said she was quoting Strohfus and it was "a great line."
Klobuchar concluded by saying Strohfus was a "role model for us all, not only about that importance of service but that importance for a zest of life and believing in a cause until the day that you die. That's what Betty was about."
Strohfus was the recipient of two U.S. Congressional Gold Medals for her work with the WASP and the Civil Air Patrol, but Klobuchar said she would probably "see this dedication as the highest honor she had received because it comes from the people she cares so much for, who were the best friends of Liz Wall Strohfus. Because it will stand in the place that she called home and because well into the future young girls in Faribault and throughout Minnesota will see that name, hear her stories and learn that they too can reach those highest heights. They too can achieve their dreams."
Faribault Mayor Kevin Voracek read the proclamation designating June 24, 2017, "Liz Wall Strohfus Day in Faribault." Faribault State Sen. John Jasinski read a proclamation signed by Gov. Mark Dayton designating June 24, 2017, "Liz Wall Strohfus Day in Minnesota."
Liz's son Art Roberts spoke.
A current female Delta Airlines pilot spoke and female member of the Minnesota Air National Guard, in addition to longtime friend Terry Baker with the American Aviation Heritage Foundation.
Faribault sculptor Ivan Whillock assisted Klobuchar and Roberts in unveiling a plaque he carved in honor of Strohfus. He admired Strohfus and donated the plaque, which will be on display at the airport.
In true veteran form, the Faribault American Legion Post 43 Color Guard and Rice County Central Veterans Association Honor Guard posted and retired the colors.
The "Star Spangled Banner" started the program and everyone joined in singing "God Bless America" at the end of the program.
The American Assoication of University Women Faribault chapter was the key force behind having the field named in Strohfus' honor and representatives told me they are proud to have the airport dedicated just a little over a year after the passing of Strohfus.