Civil Air Patrol

Lepore's Legacy

Charter Member’s Service Enriched Community

By Kimberly L. Wright

The late Col. Marie Lepore is shown with her mother, Rachel Pelletieri Graziadei, seated, in this undated photo.

Charter member Col. Marie Lepore touched many lives through Civil Air Patrol. In addition to flying in support of wartime missions, she mentored local youth and strengthened the aerospace community in her home state of Massachusetts.

The “Civil Air Patrol Volunteer” spoke to Lepore, 97, shortly before her death on March 1 and learned how, through CAP, she made a difference in the skies and on the ground.

Lepore was the consummate community servant. While holding down a full-time job as a social worker, she also was involved in many organizations, including a lifelong devotion to Civil Air Patrol.

She performed homefront wartime service through CAP, flying observer and search and liaison missions from 1942 to 1945 and earning a wartime active-duty service ribbon.

In 1943 she organized the Worcester Cadet Squadron, and over the years she served in a variety of roles, including squadron adjutant; public information, executive and recruiting officer; and commander.

Marie Lepore was one of the first women in the Worcester, Mass., area to earn her pilotʼs license. She shared her love of aviation with generations of local youth through Civil Air Patrol.

“I had a 200-cadet squadron at one time,” said Lepore. “They really enjoyed it. I loved watching the cadets grow and learn aviation.”

The cadets in her squadron thrived. Her drill teams, which at that time were segregated by gender, won 11 state drill team competitions during a nine-year stretch. Ten cadets earned Meritorious Service Awards, and four participated in international exchanges. Many are now pilots or involved in aviation in other ways as a result of her influence.

Lepore’s CAP activities also included staffing encampments and tours of duty as an International Air Cadet Exchange escort.

Lepore said she cherished her CAP service. “CAP kept me flying, and that was very important,” she said. “It gave me opportunities to make a difference. It was a marvelous experience, and I pushed it as far as I could.”

Renaissance Woman

Lepore, shown in the back of this biplane, was a lifelong advocate for aviation. In the last five years of her life, she was actively involved in efforts to start the first museum in Massachusetts devoted to aviation and space.

Lapore also was an active member of The Ninety- Nines, the local chapter of the National Aeronautic Association, U.S. Air Force Reserve “Operation Lady,” Chamber of Commerce, local chapter of Soroptimist International, Camp Fire Girls, Civil Defense and Service Clubs Council.

Even while in failing health, she supported efforts to create the Massachusetts Air and Space Museum, which envisions combining a variety of aviation interests for the purpose of preserving and perpetuating the state’s aviation history.

“Every state in the union has an aviation museum except Massachusetts,” said Lepore. “I couldn’t understand it. This museum will be great for the state.”

Lepore worked alongside other local aviation enthusiasts for several years on behalf of the proposed museum. Bill Deane, the museum’s vice president and president of the state aviation historical society, appreciates her continuing advocacy.

“She was one of the three people the historical society has given awards to, and the first woman,” said Deane. He also reports, as a lasting testament to her enduring legacy, that The Ninety-Nines, an organization of women pilots, is working to start a scholarship program in her honor.

Accolades from Civil Air Patrol include a 50-year plaque, a distinguished service medal honoring her lengthy service and promotion to colonel in honor of her World War II-era service. Massachusetts Wing Commander Col. Dave Belcher and members of what is now the Worcester Composite Squadron personally presented the awards to her at home a month before her death.

“I wish we could have a hundred more like her,” said Belcher.

 

#capgoldmedal

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