Suzanne Parish

Suzanne Parish

LET IT BE KNOWN, that it is with great respect and admiration that we honor Suzanne Parish, upon her induction into the Michigan Military and Veterans Hall of Honor. Her exemplary contributions to victory during World War II, aviation history, and aviation in general serve as an example to all.

Suzanne Parish was born on November 13, 1922, in New York City, NY, the granddaughter of W.E. Upjohn, the founder of Kalamazoo’s Upjohn Company. and served as a test pilot in the U. S. Army Air Corps Women’s Airforce Service Pilots during World War II.

She took her first lessons from Irving Woodhams, who carried a pilot's license signed by Orville Wright. In 1942, she earned her Private Pilot Certificate and then her Airline Transport Pilot certificate. Flying became a passion to her and she loved to perform loops, barrel rolls, and flyovers at air shows around the country.

Despite the need for aviators for the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots (WASP), Suzanne was unable to become a WASP until she turned 21 in 1943. Once she was able to join, she was assigned to Army Air Force Instrument Instruction School as a test pilot; She was in the 44-W-6 class and was stationed at Bryan Army Air Base near Bryan, Texas, where she flew P-40, AT-6, and BT-13 planes. She flew with returning combat pilots who needed instrument flying and flight tested the repaired planes before the male pilots were allowed to fly them.

After the WASP were disbanded in December 1944, she was unable to find employment as a pilot. She then married Pete Parish and focused on being a full-time mom to her five children. However, after her husband purchased a share in a single engine 35C Bonanza, she decided to return to the air once again. For many years she entertained and thrilled crowds with her acrobatic skills. They ended up purchasing several airplanes, the last one being a World War II vintage P-40 Warhawk. They painted the P-40 pink and for 25 years, Suzanne flew the P-40 in air shows across the country. The P-40 and the other aircraft they owned become the nucleus of aircraft on display at the Kalamazoo Air Zoo Museum they started in the late 70’s.

Despite flying military aircraft in World War II and working with the Army Air Corp, the female pilots were considered federal civilian employees until President Jimmy Carter signed Public Law 95-202 which gave the WASP program military veteran status.

RESOLVED BY THE MICHIGAN LEGISLATURE, That we honor and commemorate the public service and dedication of Suzanne Parish. Her service to the nation, pioneering spirit, and leadership in the field of aviation must never be forgotten. Suzanne embraced the essence of American public service and should be recognized as a role model by all individuals.

IN SPECIAL TRIBUTE, Therefore, this document is signed and dedicated to honor the late Suzanne Parish for her exemplary service to the State of Michigan and to the United States of America, and to commemorate her induction into the Michigan Military and Veterans Hall of Honor.