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Cecil M. McCollough

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A memorial service will be held for Cecil M. McCollough on Saturday, May 19, 2012, at 2 p.m. at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Brainerd. A reception will follow at the Brenny Funeral Chapel in Baxter, beginning at 3:30 p.m.

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Cecil was born at home on March 28, 1916, near the village of Clonsilla just outside of Dublin, Ireland, to Capt. Samuel A. Watt and Blanche (Moore Munn) Watt. It was a time of trouble, with the Irish fighting the British for home rule in Ireland, and in 1922 her family moved to England.

She was schooled at home and became an excellent horsewoman at an early age as her father raised a large number of race horses and polo ponies. She later went to boarding school at St. Margaret’s at Bushey, just outside of London. Cecil also studied for two years in Paris and took some classes at the Sorbonne.

In 1939 she married Squadron Leader Robert B. Barker of the Royal Air Force, and followed him from one airfield to another in England as his unit was transferred. On May 7, 1941, he was leading his squadron of nine planes home from a bombing raid targeting German ships. When they were just 10 miles out from the coast of Brittany, France, his plane was shot down and crashed in the English Channel. Of his squadron of nine planes only three returned.

Cecil immediately enlisted in the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force, later graduating from officer’s school. She rose to the rank of Section Officer (Captain) and was assigned as staff officer to the Group Captain commanding the RAF Photo Intelligence and Photo Interpretation Unit for the Air Ministry. During her military service she was also an aerial plotter and interpreter in “N” Section, where she analyzed night bombing raid photos at RAF Station Medmenham in Buckinghamshire.

In 1943 she married Capt. William J. McCollough, U.S. Army 8th Air Force. They returned to his home of Brainerd, Minn., in late 1944, where he resumed his career at the Brainerd Dispatch. They divorced in 1968.

It was a proud day for her when she became a U.S. citizen on Dec. 5, 1979. Among her joys were family, friends, travel, golf, and a good party. She was a charter member, and had 68 years of service, in Chapter CJ of the PEO Sisterhood. She was a member of the Brainerd Drama Club and the Brainerd Service League. She spent 20 years as “the wine lady” at Esser’s Liquors, a job she loved.

Cecil died on Jan. 31, 2012, and was preceded in death by her parents; a sister, Marjorie; a brother, Major Terence A. A. Watt; and a grandson, Ross Brooks. She is survived by a sister, Pauline Forsell, of Belton, Rutland, England; a niece, Diana Abel Smith, of Leesthorpe, England; and four children, Terry (Mary) McCollough, East Gull Lake, William “Buzz” (Henry) McCollough, Seattle, Robert (Evie) McCollough, Ontario, Calif., and Mary Brooks (David), of Bloomington, Minn.

Cecil is also survived by grandchildren, Lt. Col. William (Caroline) McCollough, Missy McCollough and Colin Brooks; stepgranddaughter, Katy Hochmayr; special family member, Troy (Judy) Sather; and several great-grandchildren.

Her ashes will be interred in her family plot at the village church in Manton, County of Rutland, England, on Sept. 18, 2012. She will rest next to her father, Capt. S. A. Watt, and her grandparents, Andrew A. Watt and Violet Flora Watt.

The family asks that no flowers be sent to the memorial service, but that friends consider a memorial to Bethany Good Samaritan Village or to St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.

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