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The Long Runway Home

Honoring Col. John and Ruth Gwinn


Retired U.S. Air Force Colonel John W. Gwinn was born in 1915 in Lockbridge, West Virginia.  He was 14 years old when the stock market crashed in 1929.  “They say that we’re in the worst economic times since the Great Depression” Gwinn says.  “I lived through the Great Depression and I know all about it.”


Ruth Tolley was born in 1919 near the once-booming coal town of Winding Gulf in Raleigh County.  Her mother died when Ruth was 12 years old.  The W.P.A. built an airfield on her family’s farm in Summers County.  “I didn’t learn to drive,” Ruth says.  “I learned to fly!”  She soloed at age 16.


Col. Gwinn completed his distinguished military career in 1964. After moving to Lewisburg he accepted the monumental “assignment” of building a commercial airport.  He then managed the Greenbrier Valley Airport for 27 years.  He retired in 1994 – mission accomplished!


Ruth Tolley Gwinn took to the air again – teaching people to fly - and operating the family airport at Pence Springs.  She holds the distinction of being the youngest woman in West Virginia to obtain a pilot’s license, which was in 1937.


Shepherd’s Center of Greenbrier Valley

2009 Community Service Award