Trailblazing Minnesota woman who served in Navy during WWII laid to rest at Fort Snelling

A special ceremony at Fort Snelling on Friday honored a Minnesota woman who left the homefront to join the Navy in World War II.

Shirley Westlie was quite the trailblazer. She was a Navy woman who loved to fly and sailed her way into the hearts of nearly everyone she met. She was remembered and buried with military honors at Fort Snelling.

"Shirley is a remarkable woman who has had many significant facets to her life," said her son-in-law Dennis Hale.

Shirley was born in Cromwell, Minnesota in 1924. When the country needed men and women in World War II, she answered the call. Her son-in-law recalls how the Navy made her part of the women's reserves.

"So not only was she a WAVE, but she became a NAT, also Naval Air Transport," explained Hale.

She was an orderly on Navy C-47 transport planes. In a 2015 interview, she told us about the honor of flying the troops back home.

"Young men were coming back from that awful war and we flew them back into the country, and boy, were they glad to see an American girl on those flights," she said.

Her efforts were recognized in her own Honor Flight to the World War II Memorial in Washington.

"It’s a great generation and you feel that here," added Hale.

Service was in her blood. After the war, Shirley became a "Betty" for General Mills, leading tours of the Betty Crocker Kitchens. But, at the root of it all was her family and her service. The kind that gets her own missing woman salute.

"She has a four aircraft came by," said Jerry Kyser of Honor Flight Twin Cities. "She lifted up and went west, in that with the smoking so as the family says that's the way surely should go."

"She affected and touched so many people's lives, and she did it well, she did it with grace. And we're very proud of that."

Shirley became a goodwill ambassador for the Honor Flights of the Twin Cities. She is survived by her three children, seven grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren.