Loetscher holding a sea turtle
|Died||January 4, 2000|
Ila Fox Loetscher (1904 – January 4, 2000), also known as the "Turtle Lady", was a female aviation pioneer and noted advocate for the care and preservation of sea turtles.
Early life and aviation
From her early life, Loetscher had developed in interested in engines and aviation, and she became, at the age of 25, the first licensed native Iowa female pilot. At the invitation of her friend Amelia Earhart, Loetscher was one of the 99 charter members of the Ninety-Nines, an organization founded in 1929 to promote fellowship and support for female pilots.
By the 1950s, her focus had changed from flying to family. However, when David Loetscher, her husband of 32 years, died in 1955, the family opted for a new beginning and moved to South Padre Island, Texas.
Her work with sea turtles
Shortly after moving to South Padre Island, Ila Loetscher developed an affection for and interest in sea turtles, which would come to define the latter half of her life. From 1963-1967, she accompanied fellow island residents on trips to Mexico to get eggs for the endangered Kemp's Ridley turtle that they would plant and protect on the island, and she received a state license to care for sick and injured sea turtles.
In 1977, Loetscher founded “Sea Turtle, Inc”, a non-profit corporation focused on protecting and preserving sea turtles, particularly the Kemp’s ridley. Her activities on behalf of the turtles gained her the nickname, “The Turtle Lady.”
Awards and appearances
- Ila Loetscher was inducted into the "Iowa Aviation Hall of Fame" in 1991.
- In 2005, she was the first nominee to the “The Rio Grande Valley Walk of Fame”
- Loetscher appeared in National Geographic documentaries and on numerous television shows, including The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, Late Night with David Letterman, the Today Show, and Real People.
- "Iowa Aviation Hall of Fame Inductees; Ila Fox Loetscher". Iowa Aviation Museum. Retrieved 2007-03-06.
- "The Ninety-Nines; Charter Members". The Ninety-Nines, Inc. Retrieved 2007-03-06.
- "April Proclaimed "Ila Loetscher Month"" (PDF). The Beachcomber. Town of South Padre Island, Texas. April–May 2005. Archived from the original (PDF) on May 13, 2006. Retrieved 2007-03-06.
- "Solving the Ridley Riddle". Texas Parks and Wildlife magazine. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. March 2004. Retrieved 2007-03-06.
- Sizemore, Evelyn (2002). The Turtle Lady: Ila Fox Loetscher of South Padre. Plano, Texas: Republic of Texas Press. p. 220. ISBN 1-55622-896-1.