Ready to Serve
By Carolyn Kesterman, Communications intern
As a member of the WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Services), S. Francis Clare Pavioni trained Marines, Coast Guard and Navy pilots to fly using stationary flight simulators.
On Memorial Day, the memories of those who died serving our country are recalled by all in the Sisters of Charity Community, but especially by those who served beside them. Sisters have come to the aid of the country several times throughout the Community’s history, either during their ministry, like the 30-plus Sisters who served as nurses in the Civil War, or before joining the Congregation, like S. Francis Clare Pavioni, who served with the WAVES in World War II.
S. Francis Clare was working in an accounting office after high school when she discovered that her salary had been frozen and new colleagues were making more than she was after her three years. “I discovered what they paid the people in the service, and I thought I might as well be going somewhere where I could do some good toward the effort,” S. Francis Clare says. Herself a native of Gallup, New Mexico, she chose the Navy since the members of the New Mexico National Guard were some of the first prisoners of the war and there was a strong feeling amongst those in the state that they should join the Navy in order to possibly save their neighbors at sea.
The WAVES, or “Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service,” were members of the United States Naval Reserve during the Second World War. The creation of a Women’s Reserve that accomplished the same clerical and training tasks as men meant that more men would be free for fighting. S. Francis Clare was one of three WAVES appointed as instructors at the Link Instrument Training Instructor School (LITIS) in Atlanta, Georgia. A Link Trainer, also called a “blue box” or “pilot trainer,” was a stationary flight simulator in which training pilots could learn to operate the controls of a plane and determine their locations with radio waves. Instructors sat at observation stations next to the Link Trainers and monitored students’ progress with a microphone to help them learn procedures. As a specialist at the school for instructors, S. Francis Clare had to be up to date on changes to procedures in response to information gained in the air. Once a month, instructors also had the opportunity to go up with a pilot and use some of the controls to learn better how they would respond in the air, and S. Francis Clare occasionally took up this offer.
S. Francis Clare Pavioni (left) listens to radio signals during a visit to Link Aviation Devices, Inc. in Binghamton, New York, in 1946.
Upon entering the service in April 1944 “for the duration of the war plus six months,” S. Francis Clare stayed until March 1946 and returned home to continue at the accounting office until joining the Community in 1953. She remained close to her friends from the war, though, and remembers them dearly. Two of her male friends, she relates, were strangers to each other, but in their letters, Sister thought it sounded like they might be on the same island so she told them to seek each other out, the two becoming friends thereafter. At the 45th anniversary of the end of the war in Washington, D.C., she and a large number of her friends from the WAVES visited the Smithsonian Institute where they had put in a Link Trainer like the ones they had used, and the group corrected some information on the panels for the museum. She is now the last surviving of her friends from the WAVES, and Memorial Day is yet another time for her to pause and remember the lasting friendships that she made living and working with a group of dedicated young women like herself.
S. Francis Clare Pavioni has been with the Community for 64 years.