Rhea Hurrle Allison Woltman
St. Augusta - Rhea Hurrle Allison Woltman, 92, of St. Augusta, Minnesota, took her final flight into the arms of her Savior on February 15, 2021. She passed away from natural causes at home surrounded by family.
Rhea, daughter of the late Leo and Ellanora (Ruehle) Hurrle, was born at home in Lynden Township, Minnesota, on November 6, 1928. She was raised on a farm and educated in a one-room schoolhouse. Her responsibilities on the farm nurtured a strong work ethic. From an early age, Rhea admired the skies and vowed to become a pilot. After teaching for two years, Rhea moved to Texas where she fulfilled that vow.
In 1960, Rhea was invited to participate in the secret Mercury project, where she underwent grueling physical examinations and a battery of tests with 12 other female pilots to become the First Lady Astronaut Trainees (FLATS), now known as the Mercury 13. Rhea passed all of the tests and advanced as one of five to meet the requirements. The U.S. government shut down the women's program before they were ever allowed to fly a space mission.
Rhea married William "Jean" Allison in 1962. Rhea and her husband owned an aircraft brokerage business in Texas, and Rhea delivered planes to customers, in addition to transporting passengers and cargo all over North America, including Alaska, Mexico, the Bahamas, and Canada. Jean passed away in 1966. Rhea moved to Colorado Springs where she taught the cadets at the U.S. Air Force Academy. Rhea married Leonard Woltman in 1972. Leonard passed away in 1990.
Rhea later became a Registered Parliamentarian, serving organizations and businesses and earning respect in her field throughout the U.S. In 2007, the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh conferred on Rhea and the remaining Mercury 13 astronauts honorary Doctor of Science degrees, recognizing them as pioneers in aviation history. In 2008, Rhea was inducted into the Colorado Women's Hall of Fame for STEM/Aviation. Rhea also improved the city of Colorado Springs during her 18 years as a Rotary Club member. As a volunteer and philanthropist, she was an inspiration to those she met and all who came to know her.
Her beautiful life will be forever cherished by her family: Nethaline (Hope) Nothnagel, Francis and Marilyn Hurrle, Larry and Carol Hurrle, 35 nephews and nieces, many great-nephews and great-nieces, and even special great-great-nephews and great-great-nieces. She graced and was graced by many caregivers in her final years in Minnesota.
She was preceded in death by her parents Leo and Ellanora Hurrle, sisters Joan and Ora Rose and Rose's husband Jack Healy, brother Elwood and his wife Ellen Hurrle, husbands William "Jean" Allison and Leonard Woltman, and sister Hope's husband Erv Nothnagel.
Rhea was a generous woman to the end, donating her body to science. Therefore, there will be a burial service on the return of her remains at a later date.
Published in St. Cloud Times from Feb. 24 to Feb. 25, 2021.