Every one of us has a calling in life. We each have a talent that we can offer to the world; perhaps this is our purpose of living. One is blessed if they find out what that talent is and utilize it within their lifetime. Even fewer of us are lucky enough to make a real difference by using this talent. Ila Loetscher, had two amazing talents, and shared both of them with this world.
She had two completely different passions. One could say that Ila spent the first half of her life engaging in her first passion and the second half of her life on the other. The passions themselves cannot be two farther points on a scale. Ila was the first female pilot in Iowa, and paved the way for many female pilots across America. She also is known as the Turtle Lady of South Padre Island in Texas, rescuing hundreds of sea turtles and caring for those that were sick and injured.
The first part of her life was an adventure. Hailing from Iowa, Loetscher had a passion for airplanes. In 1929 she became Iowa’s first female pilot. She kept the company of such famous aviators as Amelia Earhart. Amelia soon called Ila to be a part of the prestigious Ninety-Nines, a group of ninety nine women who aided aspiring female pilots. They offer scholarships for young women. Aspiring pilots can contact the group for support and advice. Loetscher and others showed America that women were capable of flying, and paved the way for women pilots today.
Tragedy struck the Loetscher family in 1955 when Ila’s husband died. The family made the conscious decision to move to South Padre Island in Texas, a hot little town off the coast of the Gulf of Mexico.
This is where Ila receives her second calling, a love and appreciation for sea turtles. She would rescue Kemps Ridley sea turtle eggs that were endangered and ensured their successful integration into the natural world. Ila then began to protect sick and injured sea turtles. She set up her home to be a sanctuary for these ailing creatures, placing pools across her yard, mimicking their natural habitat. She was nicknamed the “Turtle Lady” by her fans. Her love and admiration for saving the sea turtles and protecting our beautiful environment was inspiring. She went to great lengths to keep these animals safe.
Ila was very humble and probably did not foresee the amount of interest she would generate. She was interviewed by National Geographic and David Letterman to name a few appearances. She has been awarded countless recognitions of her selfless work for the Sea Turtles.
Ila died in 2000 but her legacy lives on in with the many volunteers who have created the Turtle Lady Legacy.
I had the pleasure of meeting the Turtle Lady as a young girl in 1990. She took the time to show my family along with other countless tourists her home and introduce us to her extended family, those beautiful sea turtles. I distinctly remember the turtles reacting to her calls when they were hungry which I thought was incredible. I learned very young how fragile life is, and how you should always give a second chance to sick and injured animals. She really made me realize that our environment is so sacred, and that every decision man makes effects so many organisms in our precious world.
There is no doubt that the recent BP oil spills have affected the sea turtles and the late Ila Loetscher’s work among so many other sea creatures, wild and plant life. Our world is so precious, and it just takes one person and a creative mind to make a significant difference. We should all recognize our talents and pursue them. We can all be like Ila Loetscher, and have multiple dreams and make them all realities and therefore truly make a difference that matters.