31 May 2024

Longest-Serving Flight Attendant Was a Committed Catholic

An amazing story of a committed Catholic and a committed mother. And what a work ethic! She held the same job for 67 years!!!

From Aleteia

By John Burger

Bette Nash began as a "stewardess" in 1957 and chose to be close to home to be with her son who has Down syndrome. She passed away on May 24.

When she began her career, Bette Nash was known as a stewardess. She served lobster and champagne on the flights on which she worked and carved beef for those who requested it. She offered cigarettes for passengers who desired an after-meal smoke.

Sixty-six years later, Bette Nash earned a place in the Guinness Book of World Records as the longest-serving flight attendant. Along the way, she developed a sort of fan club among regulars on her Washington-Boston route. Someone dubbed it the “Nash Dash.”

Nash passed away while in hospice care on May 24 at the age of 88, after battling breast cancer. Her obituary noted that “beyond her professional achievements, Bette was a dedicated member and volunteer at Sacred Heart Church in Manassas, Virginia. Her faith and service to the church community were central to her life, providing comfort and support to many.”

Bette Nash’s funeral Mass will be held at Sacred Heart on June 10.

The obituary adds that she will be remembered “not only for her extraordinary career but also for her warmth, generosity, and the countless lives she touched.”

Charm school

Born Mary Elizabeth Burke on New Year’s Eve, 1935, she grew up in Pleasantville, New Jersey, a suburb of Atlantic City. The jet age was still young, and flying was widely regarded as exotic and exciting. Bette was attracted to what she perceived of the life of a flight attendant.

“It just looked so elegant. And romantic. It was the romance of the skies. You could take off and be in another world almost,” Nash told The Boston Globe in 2007.

She studied business at Sacred Heart College in Belmont, North Carolina, a now defunct school that was operated by the Sisters of Mercy. Returning to New Jersey, she applied to and was accepted by Eastern Airlines. After an obligatory course in etiquette and dress in what was called “charm school,” she began working in November 1957.

Devoted mom

“She began flying out of Washington in 1961, usually shuttle hops to New York and Boston — an assignment she preferred, even when seniority gave her the choice of routes, because she could return to her home in Northern Virginia every evening to care for her son, who had Down syndrome,” The New York Times reported.

Eastern eventually sold off its East Coast routes to Donald J. Trump’s short-lived airline, the Trump Shuttle, the newspaper said. After it closed in 1992, the routes went to US Airways, which was bought by American in 2015. “Nash remained in place the whole time,” said The Times.

In 2017, at a ceremony at Reagan National Airport to mark her 60th anniversary, American Airlines presented her with a pair of diamond earrings and a $10,000 donation to the Sacred Heart food bank where she volunteered.

The ceremony ended, and she was soon working a shuttle to Boston. But, The Times said, “as the plane taxied to the runway, a pair of fire trucks doused the plane with a water-cannon salute, an honor usually reserved for retiring pilots.”

Nash never officially retired from American. She first entered the Guinness records in 2021 as the flight attendant with the longest career, said The Times. “She ultimately served for 67 years. A year later she entered the records again as the oldest active attendant.”

Mink coats to flip-flops

In 2017, she expressed a touch of regret for the ways things have changed over the course of her career. “In the old days, we saw a lot of mink coats,” she said. “Today, we see a lot of flip-flops.”

Bette was predeceased by her husband, James Nash. She is survived by her son, Christian Nash, and her sister, Barbara Jannarone.

She also leaves behind many grateful fliers. Reacting to American Airlines’ announcement of Nash’s death, one person posted on Instagram, “Please, put her name on a 777 or the 787! She deserves to fly the world with her great history!”

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