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Mary Louise Bowden Brown

Hanover, N.H. — Mary Louise Bowden Brown, of Hanover, passed away Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013, at her home at Kendal of Hanover, a retirement community. She was 96.

Louise was born May 16, 1916, in Overbrook, Pa., the daughter of Andrew and Isabella Bowden. She was raised in Elmer, N.J., with her sisters, Agnes Marsh, Emily Connelly, and Edith Eldridge, and a brother, Tom Bowden. All predeceased her.

After a rich life that took her across the globe, Louise retired to Florida in 1982 where she met Sam Brown, of Hickman, Ky. They married in 1987 and made a home in Hickman. She remained there after Sam’s death until moving to Kendal in New Hampshire in 1998.

Louise was a member of the Women Airforce Service Pilots — the WASP — during World War II. Of the 25,000 women who applied to join the program, only 1,830 were accepted and took the oath and 1,074 earned their wings. Louise was one of 112 women who graduated with her class of 43-4 on Aug. 7, 1943. After graduation, she received Army orders to report to the Ferry Command at Romulus, Mich.

Louise became a member of the Caterpillar Club after bailing out of a P-51 fighter plane over North Carolina, which she was flying from a factory field in Texas to a field of embarkation in New Jersey. The plane’s engine caught on fire giving her no choice but to jump. She was unhurt in the accident.

In May 2010, Louise and all the surviving WASPs were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal by President Barack Obama for their service to the country.

After the WASP were deactivated (Dec. 20, 1944), Louise earned her instructor’s rating, single and multi-engine ratings and taught flying for six years before moving to Alaska and then California. Beginning in 1957, Louise worked for the Presbyterian Board of Missions for 21 years at a 525-bed hospital in Maharastra, India, and another four years with the mission in Kathmandu, Nepal. While living in Kentucky, Louise was a chaplain at a 125-bed hospital in Fulton, Ky., where she ministered to young girls who were serving time in the Hickman, Ky., jail. She also earned her black belt in Tae Kwan Do at the age of 80.

Louise is survived by six nieces and nephews: Gail and (Milton) Pate, Janet and (Lowell) Young, David Marsh, Linda Marsh, Gordon and (Janis) Egan and Ross Connelly; and a number of grand- and great-grandnieces and nephews.

Louise donated her body to the Dartmouth Medical School. The family will hold a memorial service at Kendal at Hanover at a later date.