Holly Ziler

By Lynn Chelewski                                                                                                   
Written on Memorial Day, May 29, 2017
The wind was born in West Texas-specifically in the Guadalupe Mountains which look down upon the Patterson Hills, The Delaware and Sierra Diablo Mountains, and the Salt Flats near Dell City, Texas. It is not uncommon to have day after relentless day in the Springtime of the year for the winds to torment the human spirit with sustained winds of 40-50 miles an hour.  It is expected and normal for gusts to exceed over 100 miles per hour.  The winds are so intense that often times birds of the air are blown off course, sometimes injured, and found hobbling along Highway 62-180 in need of recuperation and repair. In my years there, I sometimes came across Cattle Egrets and Pelicans that been knocked off their course.

Truck drivers, and any local traveler is acutely aware of the hazards of driving down the pass-through Guadalupe Canyon; through a cut in a rock-only to have blasting winds immediately switch directions, blowing even a prepared driver into the next lane.  Airline pilots are intensely aware of the winds in this region. 
Yet the region has a certain intense allure for a certain minority of person with the raw pioneering spirit.  Indeed, it seems one either falls in love with this remote part of the country or instantly hates it.
Lois Hollingsworth-Ziler was one of the rare breed of hearty souls who fell in love with it, and although not born there; once exposed could never leave there again.
Holly was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, but grew up in University City, Missouri. Inspired by Charles Lindberg at a young age she was making model airplanes when she was 7 and by age 16 soloed in an open cockpit bi-plane, a Fleet with a Kinner engine.  By age 17 she had her pilots license.  She met Amelia Earhart when she was in high school. Amelia was a career counselor at Purdue, and encouraged Holly to study engineering. She later did attend Purdue and got a degree in Mechanical Engineering with an option in aeronautics. “Holly” to those who knew her, became an aviator, a pioneer of her own right who was WASP during World War II. While in the WASPs (Women Airforce Service Pilots), she bought 80 acres in a new farming community called Dell City, Texas.  She became a certified flight instructor in El Paso, and later married one of her students, Doyle Ziler in 1946.  They had three children-Donnie, Jerry and Mary. They farmed, and she eventually got her teaching certificate and taught high school math for 18 years.  
In her later years, she taught flying lessons in Art Gonzales’ little yellow and white Cessna 152, using the tiny air strip on the edge of Dell City. She also served for a while on the Dell Valley Medical Clinic board of directors.  It was while serving on that same board, that I came to know her.
My wife Belinda and I moved to West Texas for the first time in Texas Sesquicentennial year, 1986.  A couple years later I was asked if I would be interested to serve on the clinic board, to which I obliged.  I was one of the newer employees at Guadalupe Mountains National Park, a maintenance mechanic by title; proudly wearing an arrow head patch on my uniform which is synonymous with the National Park Service. 
Our only child, a son, Cody grew up in those mountains, and drew his first breath of air at the Guadalupe Medical Center in Carlsbad, New Mexico.  The date was March 24, 1988.   I share this because it is interesting how so many human lives are intertwined in intricate ways.
West Texas; although amidst the arid Chihuahuan Desert is steeped with history so fantastic and so American that it is etched upon the memories of all who have come to embrace it. Adventurers like Holly are part of that history.  Water was discovered in the area that is now Dell City in the 1940’s, Dell City was incorporated in 1948.  By Texas standards, the tiny community of around 400 population is comparatively young. 
When I first knew Holly, many of us served on the clinic board when Doctor Ken Wiant was the medical doctor there commuting over from El Paso approximately 80 miles further to the West.  Frank Archuleta, Goodi Sanders, Tommy Ross, David Kline and I served on the board.  There may have been another member or two, but unfortunately their names escape me now.  
Our family eventually moved to Carlsbad, New Mexico, but I continued to work at Guadalupe Mountains National Park as the Buildings and Utilities Supervisor.  One day in the mid to late 1990’s my young son Cody and I drove from Carlsbad to Dell City for a plane ride.  We rode in the little yellow Cessna and took an aerial tour of the nearby sand dunes, the Salt Flats, skirted the Guadalupe’s as they were too high to fly over.  We saw they recently developed wind mill farm in the Delaware Mountains in the area that used to be the Six-Bar Ranch.  For a while, she let Cody steer the plane, while I ran a video recorder and took pictures. I knew then we were enjoying a rare opportunity with an amazing lady.
I later arranged for her to give a talk at the park for Women’s History Month.  She showed up wearing her WASP uniform-it still fit perfectly, as it would until the day she died.  
Holly passed away on October 7, 2000; about 6 months before we moved away to Nebraska. Back in Nebraska where I grew up I came to know Diane Ruth Armour-Bartels, who had written a book about another famous WASP-Evelyn Sharpe from Ord, Nebraska where my Grandma and Grandpa Hunt had lived, and later, my parents. Evelyn died after a malfunction with a P-38 she was flying in Pennsylvania during the war. As I said, it is amazing how intertwined our lives our once we take the opportunity to get to know people like Holly Ziler.  Her vibrant spirit and lively character will always be remembered; as certainly as those husky, West Texas winds.


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