Mary Helen Crane Chapman Foster was born on August 5, 1921 to Sallie Lee McClure and Tilman Robert Thomas in Cuero, Texas.
Reared in San Antonio, Mary Helen graduated from Brackenridge High School. After completing coursework at a local business college, she was hired as a secretary at Fort Sam Houston. Defying conventions of that era, Mary Helen became interested in flying, took private lessons, and on a red-letter day in 1941 she celebrated her first solo flight.
In 1942 in the heat of WWII, Mary Helen was accepted into the training program for the Women Air Service Pilots (WASP). She graduated in the class of “44-W-3” ready to serve her country. She was assigned to Malden Army Air Field in Missouri as a maintenance test pilot. In 2010 she was honored at a ceremony on Capital Hill in Washington DC, where the WASPs were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal.
After the war while attending Southwest Texas State College in San Marcos, Mary Helen met Paul E. Chapman, a chemical engineer employed by AMOCO Chemicals in Texas City. They were married in February of 1948. Mary Helen and Paul Chapman reared their family of five children in Dickinson, Texas. In 1970 she completed her education earning a BA in Library Science from Sam Houston State University. She worked as a librarian first for the Dickinson ISD and then as the head librarian for the children’s department of the Houston public libraries. Over the years both Mary Helen and Paul were active in the community, their churches, and politically. Mary Helen served in numerous capacities within the League of Women Voters and as a Girl Scout leader.
After Paul’s retirement the couple moved to Mt. Pleasant, Texas where Mary Helen served in the administration of the Mt. Pleasant Public Schools, supervising the libraries of the school district. Over the years Mary Helen made several international trips touring Mexico, the Soviet Union, and Europe. Her final trip abroad was a mission trip to the Ukraine with her church in Mt. Pleasant.
After 46 years of marriage, Paul Chapman died of cancer in 1994. Mary Helen re-married in 1998 to Boyce Foster. The Fosters moved to Tuscaloosa, Alabama where they lived together until Boyce’s death.Mrs. Foster is survived by her brother, Robert Tilman Thomas, Junior, her children: Paul E. Chapman, Jr., William C. Chapman, Sally F. Heineke, Stephen Jay Chapman, and Helen Ann Curry; ten grand-children: Laura Barrow, Tonya Farmer, Elizabeth Gabhart, Nathan Heineke, Rebecca Heineke, Kimberly Izaguirre, Rachel Jones, Sarah Chapman Long, Autumn Manchaca, and April Zeilner, and twenty-four great-grandchildren.
Most recently, Mrs. Foster has lived in The Woodlands, Texas where she has been a member of the Woodland Oaks Church of Christ.
Forest Park The Woodlands will be assisting the family with a visitation from 5:00 pm — 8:00 pm, Thursday, August 18th and a Celebration of Life service will be at 3:00 pm on Friday, August 19th. Internment with military honors will be at 12:30 pm on August 19th at the Veterans National Cemetery. Anyone who would like to join in these memorials is welcome to attend.