Virginia L. Sweet
Sweet, Virginia L. Lt. Col. USAFR SCHENECTADY Lt. Col. Virginia L. Sweet, 88, died Sunday morning, July 12, 2009 at Baptist Health Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Scotia after a short illness Lt. Col. Sweet was born on February 12, 1921. At the age of 12, she read a story about the flight of Amelia Earhart across the Atlantic. This started her great love for the sky and flying. She learned to fly at the Schenectady Airport in the summer of 1940, in a civil pilot training program. When she obtained 200 flying hours, she joined the WASP in class 43-W-4 in Houston, Texas, then went on to basic and advanced training at Avenger Field in Sweetwater, Texas, where she graduated and was assigned to Romulus, Mich., in the Third Ferry group in ATC. She attended instrument school, officer training school, and pursuit operational training, where she qualified in the P-39, P-40, P-51 Mustang, and P-63. By the time she was relieved from active service she had flown 52 different types of military aircraft as pilot-in-command, and qualified as co-pilot in the B-17, B-24, B-25, and the PBY-5 Catalina flying boat. The Amelia Earhart Scholarship was presented to Miss Sweet in NYC in 1949, by Maj. Gen. Robert M. Webster, Commanding General of the Eastern Defense Command of the Continental Air Command, United States Air Force. After World War II she served a reserve commission in 1949 and spent five years on active duty during and after the Korean War. She retired from the USAF Reserve in September 1979, as a lt. colonel after 30 years of service. Her military service as a WASP was not recognized until 1977, when the Department of Defense acknowledged the WASP as members of the military. On July 1, 2009, the president of the United States signed the bill "S.614" to award the WASP the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest honor Congress can bestow upon a civilian. After WASP deactivation, she had a lifelong aviation career, adding some 55 different civilian types of aircrafts to her flight log, along with 14 sailplanes and gliders. She held a commercial pilot certificate with ratings for single and multi-engine land and seaplanes, gliders, and an instrument and instructor certificate. She was an advanced ground school instructor and was a flight examiner for many years. She taught flying at Lake Champlain, at RPI to ROTC cadets, and at most of the airports in the Capital District. After a humble educational start in a one room school house in Quaker Springs, N.Y. she received diplomas from the Duke University and the Sorbonne in France with degrees in languages. She taught French, Spanish, and Latin for a number of years. She was predeceased by her father, Harry P. Sweet and her mother, Jessica S. Sweet; sisters, Betty (C. W.) Skinner and Helen (Leonard) Grinter. Survivors include cousin, Robert (Barbara) C. Smith of Fla. and Vt.; nephews, Edward (June) Grinter of Schenectady, Charles Skinner of Md., William (Dawn) Skinner of Md.; nieces, Suzanne Skinner of Md., Margaret Helen (Arthur) of Md., Betsey (Thomas) McBride of Niskayuna, Barbara Grinter of Schenectady, Phyllis Jane (Jeff) Joy of Md.; and several great-nephews and nieces. A memorial service will be held on Saturday, July 18, 2009 at 10 a.m. at Bond Funeral Home, Broadway and Guilderland Avenue, Schenectady. A visitation will be held at the funeral home on Friday, July 17 from 6 to 8 p.m. Internment with military honors will be held in Vale cemetery, Schenectady, N.Y. Contributions may be made in Lt. Col. Sweets Memory to the Baptist Health Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, 297 North Ballston Ave, Scotia, NY
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Published by Albany Times Union from Jul. 16 to Jul. 17, 2009.
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25 Entries
I heard about Virginia and what an incredible pilot she was from my father who was a small plane pilot in Schenectady. He collected newspaper articles about Virginia throughout the years. In 1979 I spoke with Virginia and she got me started on our Sweet family genealogy. My great-grandfather Frank Sweet and her great-grandfather William Wilde Sweet were brothers. I didn't meet Virginia until a number of years ago and I was so very impressed when I met her. Although elderly at this time, I will never forget how she carried herself. Even with a very strong limp from a broken hip, there was no mistaking that I was talking to a Lt. Col. She was brilliant and charming and as soon as I met her, I knew I had met someone so very remarkable. She then continued to try to help identify old photos I had. My father went to the same one room school house in Quaker Springs as Virginia. We visited Virginia once she moved back to Parkwood which she was determined to do. My father (Virginia’s cousin) recently had a stroke, he is 89. A couple weeks ago we went to Virginia's house but she no longer lived there. We were so sad to learn from the mailman that she had passed away. My father and I went to the Vale Cemetery to pay our respects. We learned that her name and information is going to be published in a Vale Cemetary booklet of Notable Women. I had known what a wonderful pilot Virginia was, however, I didn't know that she may possibly be the most accomplished female aviator in her time in having command so many different types of aircraft along with her teaching. Her vast knowledge and experience in flying aircraft leaves me in awe. Virginia was determined and accomplished. She followed her dreams and pursued them vigorously. It sounds like she did everything she loved. She’s either riding in a silent glider as it drifts in the beautiful sky or she may be on a soft cloud playing her harp. What ever she is now doing, she can rest assured she has made this a more beautiful world and has given us hope and inspired us that one can live their life the way they want, all the time teaching others in both strong and beautiful ways. She’s taught that strength and perseverance following your dreams will carry you where you want to be in life.

If there are any other Sweet relatives out there from the children of Thomas Sweet and Mercy Wright, I would love to hear from you so I may continue the journey Virginia started me on, our family genealogy. I am truly honored to have known Lt. Col. Virginia L. Sweet. May God Bless Virginia.
With our deepest sympathy to those she knew and loved.
Most Sincerely,
Bonnie Czaban MA
Roger Dinsmore, Schenectady, NY
Bonnie Czaban
November 28, 2009
My greatgrandfather, Frank Sweet, and Virginia's grandfather were brothers. I am proud to have such
an inspirational relative. It is sad that I only now know so many of her accomplishments. She is an awesome role model for today's women of any age.
May you soar with the angels, Virgina!

Bonnie MacAdams Mele
Bonnie MacAdams Mele
November 25, 2009
I have not seen Virginia since she was my flight instructor and FAA Examiner for my private license in 1951. I went on to become a USAF fighter pilot and served 26 years in the USAF. We overlapped in the USAF, but we never got together. She was one of my heros. I do not know what possessed me to google her today - about a week after her death. Strange.
July 25, 2009
My deepest condolences. May your hearts soon be filled with wonderful memories of joyful times together as you celebrate a life well lived. I hope it also brings comfort that many strangers will remember Virginia sweet as true American heroine. I urge teachers to include Virginia in history courses so she may be an inspiration for generations to come.
Joanna Tierno
July 18, 2009
God Speed Virginia Sweet!
Jay Holden
July 18, 2009
What an inspiring woman!
Cara Anaam
July 17, 2009
After reading the TU article, it was quite apparent to me that Ms. Sweet was an amazing woman; her life and accomplishments are so inspirational.
July 17, 2009
I did not know Lt. Col. Sweet, but read the article which tells about all the wonderful accomplishments she demonstrated throughout her life.

My last name is Sweet and my family came from the Petersburgh area. I would be proud to have her as a family member. She was a pioneer and someone for me, as a woman, to be greatly impressed with.

Accept my condolences, please.

Judith Sweet
Judith Sweet
July 17, 2009
Although I didn't know Virginia or anyone in her family, I read this and was so impressed. What a full and exciting life she led. She reminds me of my mother who was very independent and the fact she was a woman never stopped her. God bless.
Karen Burdick
July 17, 2009
A salute to a veteran from a veteran
July 17, 2009
My sympathies to Ms. Sweet's family. I've never had the honor of meeting Virginia, but she has become one of my heroes. My biggest hero, my dad, died in May. He, too was a WWII veteran. He flew 32 missions over Germany in a B-17. Here are two fine examples of the "Greatest Generation". Rest in Peace Virginia, you've earned it. God Bless you.
Claire Roberts
July 17, 2009
I know about “Aunt Ginger,” through her adoring niece, Betsey. I met Betsey in 7th grade, when I sat in front of her in most classes, as we were always seated in alphabetical order by last names. We grew up together and are still “best of friends.” I did visit Virginia (Aunt Ginger’s) house on Parkwood Blvd. while Betsey showed me numerous family photographs, letters, poems and art work, some dating back to the very early 1900s as well as artifacts that Virginia collected from around the world.

Virginia Sweet’s family has an enormous amount of history in Schenectady County. I am SO PROUD to have known Virginia’s family, her sister – Helen and husband, Len (Betsey’s Mom and Dad) who were like second parents to me as a young adult. I love all the funny stories Betsey tells me about her visits and fun with “Aunt Ginger”. One of my favorite stories is how they are shared soup with “Buddie” the cat.

I am VERY PROUD of YOU – Virginia Sweet, a “woman before her time,” You will be missed tremendously.

Love, Veronica
Veronica Greene
July 17, 2009
Mrs. Sweet I only know you by the words that I read today. I would like to thank you for the service you provided to our country. God Bless you and your family.
Doug Sprague
July 17, 2009
A timelessly classy lady - thanks to the Times-Union for giving her the recognition she deserves.
James Close
July 17, 2009
Thank you for your service to our country; your generation was "the greatest". God Bless and keep you.
William Mahoney
July 17, 2009
A true inspiration to young women - a classic beauty, inside and out. Thank you.
Amanda - Glenville, NY
July 17, 2009
Bless them all, the long the short and the tall......
Lou Potente
July 17, 2009
I met Virginia one day at Baptist when she came highly reccomended by my mother (who works at Baptist) and other staff for my son to interview. He had a report to do on anyone of his choice who played a part in a war (she delivered/flew the fighter planes to the troops). My son chose Virginia. I went with my son for the interview/report and like my son got lost in her stories. What an amazing, wonderful woman she was. My son and I consider it an honor to have been able to meet and speak with her.
Thank You.
(Of course he got an A!)
Korrina Greeley
July 17, 2009
How do you express in words, the loss of such a great person, I am so sorry not to have known very sorry to the family , my heart was so touched..
July 17, 2009
So sorry we never met her- you're in our prayers. With heartfelt thoughts for Suzanne Skinner and family from Michelle and Monica Devol and family.
M. Devol
July 16, 2009
Dear Aunt Ginger,
I will miss you terribly.
If only you had taught me to fly...
If only we had started to write a book about your life...
Everytime I hear Tommy Dorsey's Orchestra with Frank Sinatra singing "I'll be seeing you", I will think of I promised I would.
You have left me with wonderful memories...
-you brought your large harp to my kindergarten class so I could play it...the glider flight...the holidays spent together...our good times at the American Legion in Niskayuna...I have met so many interesting people in the military that have known you.

I would also like to thank the wonderful people at the Baptist Retirement Center. Their loving care of you was heart warming.
Aunt Ginger, thank you for enriching my life with wonderful memories!
All my love,
Betsey McBride
July 16, 2009
What a wonderful and inspiring life! She must have fought every step of the way to achieve her goals.
Beth Spencer
Lancaster, PA
July 16, 2009
I used to love to sit and talk with Virginia at the American Legion a few years back. What an amazing Woman!!!
My deepest condolances to her family, and friends.
Pam Hansen
July 16, 2009
I am not someone who knew Lt. Col. Sweet, but as an aviation buff, I am profoundly impressed by her accomplishments and demonstrated ability.

Her achievements and service are inspirational, and I am gladdened by the recognition she and other WASP's gained at long last. I plan to share this story with my own daughters so they will see how far dedication of purpose can take someone who refuses to quit.

The history of our nation is illuminated by such examples, and the progress of human freedom depends on such character as her life reveals.

The loss of such a pioneer brings sorrow to all who care about a life of freedom, adventure and self-determination, even if they didn't know her. So please accept the condolences of a stranger, for I mean them with all my heart.
Marty Petersen
July 16, 2009
What an acclaimed woman! Thank you for paving the way for all women.
Greer Morgan
July 16, 2009