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Grace Lotowycz


1916 - 2016 Obituary Condolences
Grace Lotowycz Obituary
Born May 11, 1916 in Manhattan, New York to Thomas Walker Ashwell and Helen Maria Buffum. "Betty" grew up in New Canaan, CT. As a young child she suffered numerous serious illnesses. Twice she was confined to bed for a year and needed to learn to walk again. She attended Vassar College majoring in Botany. While at Vassar, she took up rock climbing and mountaineering. After graduating in 1938, she was an early participant in the Experiment in International Living, climbing in the Swiss Alps she lead several summit climbs. She also climbed in the Canadian Rockies and Shawangunks. She was invited to join the American Alpine Club in 1941. As a young woman, she worked at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden and in the editorial section of Life Magazine. During World War II wanting to serve her country, she earned her pilot's license and applied to the Women Air Services Pilots (WASP). She was accepted and trained at Avenger Field, Sweetwater, TX. In September 1944, she became one of only 1,074 women to earn their silver wings. She was stationed at Minter Field, Bakersfield, California. She was a test pilot and ferried personnel for the US Army Air Force. She and other WASP were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal July 1, 2009 recognizing and honoring their service during WWII. They were the first women ever to fly American military aircraft. In 1946, "Betty" married Wladimir "Bill" Lotowycz. They briefly lived in Damascus, Syria and then settled on St. Josephats Ukrainian Monastery in Locust Valley, LI, NY, where she taught English to the monks. She and Bill later moved with their four daughters to Mill Neck, L.I., NY. In 1962, she returned to her career as a botanist and naturalist. She established and curated the Herbarium at Planting Fields Arboretum NY State Park. She was recognized as an authority on the flora of Long Island and continued to consult for conservation organizations into her 80's. She knew and explored the many hidden corners of Long Island's remaining natural areas identifying and collecting plants. At the age of 88, she co-authored the Illustrated Field Guide to Shrubs and Woody Vines of Long Island. She was instrumental in establishing the Long Island Botanical Society. When asked she consistently responded that raising her family was the most important accomplishment of her life. In 2003 setting out on a new adventure, she moved to Boulder, CO. to live near her eldest daughter, Sophia Stoller and son-in-law Peter Stoller. She loved people's stories and life's diversity; plant, animal and human. She passed away peacefully April 8, 2016 a month shy of her 100th birthday, surrounded by family. She is preceded in death by; her husband, her parents, her brother, Thomas Buffum Ashwell, and sister Mary Johnson Liebtag. She is survived by her daughters: Sophia Stoller (Peter), Helen Rising (Brandt), Mary Ball (James), and Ann Lotowycz.. Grandchildren: Benjamin Rising (Deborah), Carrie Rising (James Hamm), Samuel Stoller (Michael Li), Joseph Stoller (Solene), Julia Grace Orzel, four great grand children and numerous nieces and nephews. We would like to thank the staff at Juniper Village Louisville and Elevations Hospice for their compassionate care. Donations in Betty's memory can be made to the Long Island Land Alliance or the . A celebration of her life will be held May 29, at the home of Sophia and Peter Stoller.
Published in The Daily Camera on Apr. 24, 2016
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