Valparaiso, FL — Priscilla O. Kippen, 93, died at her home in Valparaiso, FL on May 13, 2013. She was born on September 17, 1919 in Gloucester, MA to Alma Melissa Miller and Lambert Forrest Kippen.
She graduated from Gloucester High School and attended Boston University where she was the only female math major in her senior class when WWII broke out. She was immediately put through final exams after being recruited by the US War Department and assigned to Aberdeen Providing Grounds, Maryland where she began her career in the civil service as a mathematician and scientist computing trajectories and analyzing ballistics before the use of high speed computers. She was then promoted to head up the group developing mathematical methods for evaluation of the nuclear weapons at Edwards Air Force Base, CA. In 1955 she transferred to Eglin Air Force Base when she developed mathematical models to simulate the flight of the then new fighter aircraft as well as high-speed bombers and the weapon delivery systems. She was the only female selected to participate in Operation Bluestraw - live drops at nuclear weapons in the Pacific. In the sixties her career shifted from nuclear to non-nuclear development and analysis of conventional weapons. During her career she received numerous awards including the prestigious Bowers Commemorative Award that recognizes exceptional people-oriented programs. After a long and illustrious career she retired as the chief of the Weapons Evaluation Branch of the Air Force Armament Laboratory. From the time she arrived at Eglin until she retired in 1984 she was the highest ranked female at Eglin AFB, FL.
Kippy spent many years supporting and leading the movement for women's rights in the workplace as well as advocating for the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) Kippy described herself as a "curious person from the age of two" who always had a story to tell and a project in the works. For decades her work was classified but the last few years she began to tell stories of her unique career and professional adventures. From buying up every (yes, every) sponge in Valparaiso one day to simulate a bomb drop, to being asked to serve coffee before the joint chiefs of staff meeting because she was the only female sitting at the table (which she admits sometimes doing and sometimes not), to riding out to the proving grounds to find unexploded bombs at the same time as her superiors were concerned that she was riding in a truck on bumpy roads while pregnant! Just recently she related the story of her being the "official, unofficial escort" for Jimmy Doolittle whenever he visited the base. "He was a real gentleman" she said. Kippy loved a good story!
After retirement she put her research skills to work and traveled to family places of origin documenting genealogy; she researched and published many Gloucester Archive projects; was a dedicated member and researcher for the Gloucester MA WWII Memorial Committee for which she was presented the Gloucester Preservation Award from the Gloucester Historical Commission, an active member of the American Association of University Women (AAUW), and a long time member of the American Business Women's association (ABWA). She was proud to be a member of the Fort Walton Beach FL Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks 1795.
Kippy was predecease by her parents; her brothers, Arthur Miller, Frederick Bradford, Richard Henry, and Russell Ford Kippen of Gloucester MA; and her children Thomas Ferguson Jr. of Fort Walton Beach, James "Nicky" Yazinsky of Valparaiso, Janet Alma (Yazinsky) Ketchum of Valparaiso, and former spouses Thomas Ferguson, Bilkl Reynolds, Billy Smith, John Yazinsky, and special friend Ed Ekborg.
She is survived by her beloved and devoted husband Gilbert (Gilly) Travers of Rockport, MA;her children Janice Veronica (Yazinsky) Mercer of Crestveiw FL; Russell Kippen Feruson of Fort Walton Beach; her sister Ivy Kippen Osier of Kingston MA, and her brother Robert John Kippen of Addison ME, and numerous grandchildren, great grandchildren, nieces and nephews.
Kippy will be remembered for her humor at all times , her love of all people, her never ending curiosity, and interest in all things and her dynamic personality; she will be sorely missed by all her family and friends.
ARRANGEMENTS: Funeral services will be Friday,June 7, 2013, at 9 a.m., St. John's Episcopal Church, 48 Middle Street, Gloucester, Mass.; burial at Oak Grove cemetery, Washington Street, followed by a collation at the Gloucester House Restaurant on Roger Street.
In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the WWII Memorial Fund, P.O. Box 634, Gloucester MA 01930 for an electronic directory or the Gloucester Archives, 9 Dale Avenue, Gloucester, MA 01930 for a secure archival vault and research room in City Hall - both projects that Kippy conceived and talked about as her next projects.