Expanded Horizons - Irene Wirtsschafter (5/19/2007)
Section/Chapter: Southeast: Florida Spaceport
Captain Irene Wirtschafter flew to new horizons on May 19, 2007. She was buried at Arlington Cemetery on August 9 at 3 p.m. with full military honors and a military band.
Irene was a member of The Ninety-Nines since March 1961. She served for many years on the board of the Forest of Friendship.
She began her flying career in 1958 and held a Commercial license with IFR Land and Seaplane ratings. Irene owned an Ercoupe, Tripacer, Cessna 182 and Cessna 172. She participated in over 23 air races and is listed in Who’s Who in Aviation.
Irene had a distinguished 32-year career in the United States Navy. In 1944 she was commissioned an ensign — the first woman to receive a direct commission without a college education. Assigned to the Supply Corps, after some shore duty she was the first female officer assigned to sea duty and served aboard the USS Bretner when it transported troops from New York to Bremerhaven, Germany after WWII. Irene was the first Jewish woman to attain the rank of Captain.
Upon retiring from the Navy, Irene became an Internal Revenue agent in the U.S. Treasury Office of International Operations. She was the first woman to serve in that position. She also served as a trustee of the International Women Air and Space Museum in Cleveland.
Irene received many honors during her career, including the Woman of the Year Award from the Silver Wings Association and the National Award of Merit from the Naval Reserve Association.
She was ill for many months. One thing Irene wanted very much was to fly one more time. Local pilots at the Merritt Island Airport, Florida arranged for a flight on March 10, 2007. Upon landing she was asked, “How was the flight?” Her answer, “Too short!” Shalom, Irene.