Josephine Baker Naphen, long-time resident of Upper Nyack, died peacefully last month at the age of 91.
A native of NY City, she was a devoted life-long Yankee fan who, into her late 80s, kept score every game she watched, using yellow pads rather than printed scorecards.
From the moment Jo first heard about women in aviation, she wanted to fly. On a family trip to Europe as a teenager in the late 1930s, she realized her dream. The ferry ride across the English Channel had been choppy and her mother was dreading the return passage, so Jo convinced her that a flight from Paris to London would be preferable.
When in 1942 the call went out to women to join the WAACs, the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (later renamed Women’s Auxiliary Corps WACs), Jo immediately told her parents she was determined to do so. Along with other young women eager to fly and to help the US war effort, Jo underwent physical and flight training in Texas. WACs were the first women besides nurses to serve with the US Army. During World War II, Jo and other WACs served as non-combat pilots, performing tasks such as ferrying planes.
After the war, Jo worked at Time, Inc. and then at the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, mainly at the George Washington Bridge. After her retirement, she worked for many years at the circulation desk at Nyack Library and volunteered with Friends of the Nyacks and Hopper House.