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Pioneer remembered for her skills in aircraft design

By Patricia Duran

For the Deseret News

Published: Wednesday, July 24 2013 4:35 p.m. MDT

Cecilia May Paderewski was born in 1913 in Granite, Ill. She was one of the first women in the field of aircraft design. During World War II, she helped design fuselages, the heating and cooling systems in the planes and cockpit instruments.

Paderewski Family

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SALT LAKE CITY — Cecilia Paderewski may not be well known, but her work in designing bombers in World War II was greatly appreciated by pilots.

Her life was one that took her from the glitz and glamour of Hollywood to the cockpits of bombers in WWII.

Cecilia May Paderewski was born in 1913 in Granite, Ill. Between 1929 and 1931 she worked for Fox West Coast Studios and Fox Film Corporation. She created backdrops and artwork, according to her daughter Coleen Paderewski. While working the movies, she made friends including Humphrey Bogart, Shirley Temple, Charlie Chaplin and Jean Harlow.

In 1935 she moved to San Diego and married Clarence Joseph Paderewski and started a family.

Then in September 1939, World War II began. The attack at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, brought the United States into the war. The U.S. military enlisted thousands of men.

Her brother Arthur Vincent Boyer was in the Army Air Corp. as a mechanic on a B-24, and served in India, China and Guam. Her other brother, Raymond Kincaid Boyer, was an Army medic and served at the Battle of the Bulge, Omaha Beach, France, and Germany.

That left America's industries with gaping holes and the need for women to take on those responsibilities.

She wanted to do her part to help in the war effort. In 1942, while working on her degree from UC-Berkeley in aeronautical engineering and design, she worked at Consolidated Aircraft, which later became General Dynamics.

She received her degree in February of 1943, and she received a certificate of completion for the University of California Engineering, Science, and Management War Training Department in aircraft drafting two months later.

Cecilia Paderewski's unique skills made her a pioneer in a field traditionally reserved for men. Paderewski, known as CeeCee, became one of the first females in the field of aircraft designs.

"She wanted to put forth an effort for World War II, and her effort was to help in design of the bombers, which were the B-24s and also with the C-39s," said daughter Coleen Paderewski.

She helped with cockpit instruments, fuselages and the heating and cooling systems of the planes.

“At that time, there didn't exist anything for heating and cooling," her daughter said. "She was instrumental in making sure there was proper venting, because it could be extremely hot or extremely cold when flying — mostly cold — especially higher the elevation, the colder the temperatures."

With an influx of women workers, many businesses ran into some challenges. One challenge was very unique for CeeCee Paderewski.

"They didn't even have women's restrooms because there were no other women, and so she had a restroom just for herself," Coleen Paderewski said.

Even though Paderewski was the only woman design engineer in the United States for the B-24s and C-39s, there is one thing she never wanted to do.

"She always admired the planes," her daughter said. “She had been in the cockpits, but she just had no inclination of flying."

After the war, she cared for her family and enjoyed traveling across the country and around the world.

CeeCee Paderewski moved to Salt Lake City in 2001 to be near her daughter and grandchildren. She has been a role model for her family and a true pioneer for women in the aviation industry. She passed away in 2011.

"It's just important for women to think beyond the box and do what you think is helpful and constructive and beneficial, not only to your family, but also to other people in the world," Coleen Paderewski said.

Contributing: Viviane Vo-Duc

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