November 6, 2014 at 1:14 p.m.
Doris Brand, 99, of Chisago City, was a link trainer who served as an instructor at Corpus Christi, Texas, through the last two years of WWII. She was one of hundreds of female friends on their naval base who shared the job of teaching male pilots.
Not all of the men made the grade. In addition to instructing their students on dash controls and landings and takeoffs, a link trainer was responsible for assessing a pilot candidate’s attitude and true interest in flying along with their sense of confidence in the cockpit and a general willingness to learn.
The link trainers were not required to be skilled pilots. Brand, for one, had never sat in any airplane before she enlisted in her late 20s.
“It looked exciting, and it looked like something I would enjoy doing,” Brand said. “It was a whole new world to me.”
Brand gave her entire adult career to teaching.
She was born in July 1915, the youngest of three daughters for William and Marie Coppin. The couple farmed outside of Wahpeton, N.D. Growing up without any brothers, Doris took on chores that included “raking hay” and “cultivating corn.” “When we were old enough we handled a team of horses,” she said.
As a teen, she witnessed the Great Depression and its effects on her parents. “From my point of view, it was hardest on the farmers,” she said. “When we worked our way (out of it), I was hoping the man I married would want to farm. That did not come true.”
After high school in Wahpeton, Doris completed two years of teachers’ college in Moorhead. She needed only the two years before she could start teaching grades 1-8 in rural schools.
She spent one year of teaching at a school that she had attended near her home by Wahpeton, where she found that she was too close with her pupils and that it did not make for the most effective education. “I knew the children as friends and relatives,” Doris said.
She spent most of her early career as a teacher near Breckenridge, ND and other rural areas east across the Red River, in Wilkin County.
Doris taught for a total of nine years before enlisting in the Navy. She was influenced to volunteer for service by posters and propaganda that were hung in many public buildings. At the core of her interest, she says, she was looking to help her country in a way that would be a pioneering opportunity for women.
As the war ended, the country needed no additional Navy pilots and Doris received an honorable discharge.
She arrived home to Wahpeton a few days before her future spouse and fellow veteran John Brand, who had been stationed as an Army sergeant in northern Africa. Doris had known of John, who was five years older, from church during her youth and she attended school with John’s younger sisters. Doris and John married in 1947. Doris had returned to Breckenridge as a teacher (she later completed her degree in St. Cloud) while John worked in a Wahpeton lumberyard and he also managed a gas station there.
They moved to Chisago City in 1949 after John responded to a Minneapolis newspaper ad, to become a new owner and manager of a filling station at Main Street and Stinson Avenue in Chisago.
John expanded his business to include a garage for oil changes and other minor services, and Doris resumed her teaching career in Taylors Falls.
They built a house on Old Towne Road in 1954, and they adopted a daughter, Carol, and son, LeRoy, in 1955. The children were biological siblings.
Doris had been teaching in Chisago City when she and John adopted their grade school-age children, Doris said. She did not wish to work at the school where her children would attend, so Doris spent the rest of her career in Forest Lake.
John died in 1987. The Brand family has grown to include five grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren.
LeRoy lives in Chisago City while Carol is in Arizona, where Doris has enjoyed visits.
She felt no fear before her first commercial flight, not after enjoying every ride she could get in military planes during practice runs at Corpus Christi. The fighter jets “were toy-size as compared to a passenger plane,” she said.
“I just ate it up (those flights). They were just so thrilling and exciting.
“I don’t like to say I’m proud of having been in the Navy, but honestly, I am,” she concluded. “I am very grateful for the chance to serve my country in a way that I enjoyed so much.”