Phyllis (Marsden) Paradis, died Jan. 23, 2018, in Bar Harbor. She was born Phyllis Regina Marsden in New Bedford, Mass., Nov. 16, 1918, to Robert Durwood Marsden and Regina M. Dubord. The family moved shortly thereafter to Saylesville, R.I. It was as a child attending grammar school in Pawtucket, R.I., that she became interested in aviation.
Phyllis dreamed of flying.
Interest became passion and dream became reality with her very first flight at age 12. Within two years, young Phyllis’s love of flight had her piloting single-engine planes alongside instructors.
In 1937, upon graduating high school, Phyllis earned a position within the Rhode Island branch of the country’s newly formed Office of Social Security.
All the while Phyllis dreamed of flying.
Her short-lived marriage to Nels Johnson in 1941 was complicated by America’s involvement in the war in Europe. Johnson left to pursue military flight training.
Left to her own devices, Phyllis began the unlikely quest for military flight training of her own. She’d find it in Missouri, where she would earn her civilian pilot’s license, and in Mississippi, where, having graduated from the WASP program, she gained experience flying a myriad of military aircraft of virtually every conceivable type, despite resistance and discriminations of many of the male pilots in the program.
Nevertheless it was during her time in Mississippi’s WASP unit that Phyllis met and married her second husband and father of her three children, fellow pilot Richard Strauss.
As the Second World War came to an end, so too did the WASPs.
Before too long, family life beckoned and the Strausses settled first in Philadelphia then to Boston’s South Shore.
The Strausses’ marriage ended in divorce with Richard moving to west Florida, while Phyllis embraced her love of the Atlantic Ocean spending winters on Scituate’s “Second Cliff” and summers in Maine on Gott’s Island.
As with flying, Phyllis also had a passion for art and culture from around the world. She was a voracious reader of classic literature and historical nonfiction. She adored classical music. Phyllis was an avid collector and had a deep appreciation and uncanny knowledge of fine art and antique furniture, yet another interest that she turned into a profession, this time within the galleries of greater Boston.
Her love of travel brought Phyllis to virtually every corner of the globe: Newfoundland, Europe, South America, Egypt, China, the list goes on.
In 1978, she married Albert Welles Paradis of Duxbury Mass., and would remain as such until his passing in 2004.
In 1990, Phyllis was invited with a group of former female U.S. military pilots to Red Square, Russia, to a ceremonial meeting with that country’s surviving female World War II flyers.
In 2010, Phyllis traveled to Washington, D.C., for another ceremony, one in which she was presented The Congressional Gold Medal for her pioneering service to her country. In addition, several pieces of her flight memorabilia are currently housed in the Smithsonian and Pentagon.
Phyllis Marsden Paradis died peacefully in Bar Harbor on Jan. 23, 2018.
Phyllis was predeceased by, among others, her parents, stepmother Agnes “Nanny” Marsden, brother Durwood Marsden and nephew Benjamin Gillis.
She is survived by her three children Eric Strauss of Englewood, Fla., Christina Strauss of Lamoine, Kim Strauss and his wife, Charlene, of Bass Harbor, as well as her brother and sister, Richard Marsden and Christina Gillis and their families, cousin Barbara Vigeant and her dearest friend and caretaker Robert Macdonald.
In addition, Phyllis leaves behind 10 grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren, all of whom (as well as the majority of those listed) refer to her with reverence and affection as “Granny.”
Arrangements by Jordan-Fernald, 1139 Main St., Mount Desert. Condolences may be expressed at www.jordanfernald.com.