Ebensburg senior flew before she drove

EBENSBURG – As men and women return home from war-torn countries, there are many heroes among them.

One is right here in Cambria County.

She is Judy Seltzer of Lock Haven, a World War II pilot who resides in Amber Hill’s Cambria Care Center on Manor Drive.

Seltzer, 93, said she had her pilot’s license before she even got her driver’s license.

Seltzer said she flew all types of military aircraft from factories to airfields but not overseas.

There were very few women pilots at that time, and Seltzer said, “We didn’t have the liberties then that women have today. But it gave me the privileges now as a veteran.”

Seltzer graduated from high school in Baltimore, then enrolled in some college courses and started taking flying lessons.

“First, I got my private license, then my commercial license, and instructor’s license after more than 300 hours of training in flying,” she said.

Then she joined the Women’s Army Service Pilots [WASP] started by Jacqueline Cochran during World War II that operated from 1943-44.

“Mom had a dream,” her son, Fred, said, “and she left everything in Baltimore and came to Lock Haven to fulfill that dream of being a pilot.”

Following her military service, Seltzer went to work in Lock Haven.

“They had a Piper Cub factory in Lock Haven, and she worked in the factory, which meant she could also fly for free,” said Elaine Seltzer, Judy’s daughter-in-law.

“I wanted to keep flying after I got out of the military,” Judy said. “We would take the planes anywhere that someone wanted to purchase one, or would take people on sightseeing trips all over the state.”

Shannon James, a registered nurse at the center, said Seltzer has been a resident at the Cambria Care Center for less than a year.

James called her “a lovely lady who has had a lot of life experiences and wonderful stories to tell.”

Fred, a foreign language teacher at Philipsburg-Osceola High School, lives in Loretto and visits every day. Judy’s daughter, Barbara, also a teacher, lives in Gainesville, Va.

Fred said he looks forward to visits with his mom and their conversations.

“Mom was born in the previous century,” Fred said. “And she is so interested in every subject.”

Both Fred and his mom were great fans of Muhammad Ali, and in 1980, they visited his training camp in Deer Lake, Pa. Ali was in training for his fight with Larry Holmes, according to Fred, and Judy was like a schoolgirl seeing her idol in action.

“What a handsome man,” Judy said. “He was something else.”

Judy, whose husband, John, passed away in 2010, loves all kinds of animals but especially cats, and she appreciates the care she’s received at the Cambria Care Center.

“It’s been wonderful,” Elaine Seltzer said. “We’re just very impressed with how helpful and friendly everyone is. She’s very well cared for and happy.”