Dedicated to Keeping our Warbirds Flying and Honoring Our Veterans
Our mission is to establish and maintain a permanent presence in the community so as to preserve and illustrate the Coastal Bend's involvement in the history of those men and women who served in the past and still serve in today’s military.
Third Coast believes in and adheres to the Commemorative Air Force's mission of teaching and preserving history through restoring the aircraft and memories of the people who paid the ultimate price for our freedom from WWII to the present.
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For many years Harlingen Air Force Base would host an annual gathering, which was dubbed Aquacade Day. The all day gala included a softball game, swimming & diving exhibitions, an all soldier musical comedy, a formal dance, and the highlight of the festivities, the crowning of the Aquacade Queen.
In 1945 the men of the HAFB B-29 Gunnery School had their minds made up as to who should be named their beauty queen, except their candidate wasn't eligible, due to her working at the base's public relations office. The staff at the public relations office, & the boys of the B-29, weren't about to allow such feminine pulchritude go to waste, so they came up with their own pinup contest, sort of as a gag, and had their contestant pose for her newly crowned moment as the "Wading Queen".
The newly crowned queen was San Benito High School graduate Norene Cummins, class of 1942. Norene was a beautiful blonde, blue eyed young lady, 103 lbs of pure honey, who was enrolled at Texas A&I. Norene's family resided at 609 N Dick Dowling, in San Benito.
Norene was born in Uvalde, Texas, on October 3, 1925, to A. A. Cummins Sr. and Estelle Brymer Cummins. She grew up in El Paso, Del Rio, Eagle Pass, Crystal City and San Benito, as her father managed J. C. Penney stores along the Texas border. Norene was extremely popular at SBHS, was involved in many organizations, and graduated with honors from SBHS in 1942.
Following graduation from San Benito High School, Norene enrolled at Texas A & I University. While at A & I, she was an honor student, editor of the college's yearbook, honors society member, and involved in numerous organizations.
The Associated Press somehow got wind of the newly crowned Wading Queen, and distributed her photos. Military magazines immediately requested photo copies, as did many service organizations.
Instantly Norene became a popular pin-up girl, her photo was published in the July 30, 1945 issue of Newsweek magazine, and was picked up by newsreels in Europe and the United States. Photo clippings of Norene were streamed back to the HAAF, military personnel shared clippings of Norene from bases they were stationed in. It was reported that a movie theater in Hawaii showed her photo on screen for 22 straight days. The end result was that she received more fame & recognition than any Aquacade Queen combined.
In 1946, following graduation from A & I, she married William M. (Bill) Nance, who had returned from military service. That fall, Norene began a 35 year teaching career in the public schools in Taft, Texas. She moved to Austin in 1997 to be closer to her children.
Estelle Norene (Cummins) Nance died peacefully in her sleep at her home in Austin, Texas, on Monday, March 16, 2015.
Norene was preceded in death by her husband, Bill, in 1992.
She was survived by her sons and daughters-in-law, Bill and Patrice of Austin and Bob and Norma of San Antonio, Texas; grandsons, Greg and Clay of Austin; Clay's wife, Jill and daughters, Reese, Maddy and Kate; brother, Reverend A. A. Cummins, Jr. and wife Peggy of Georgetown, Texas; sister, Barbara Cave of Austin; favorite niece, Cathy Cartwright and husband, Jack of Austin; nephews, Reverend Mike Cave and wife Ginger of Hunt, Texas, Tom Cave and wife Cindy of Richardson, Texas, Jim Cummins and wife Cathy of Georgetown and Tim Cummins and wife Cathy of Atlanta, Georgia.
Funeral Service were at First United Methodist Church of Taft, where Norene sang for decades in the choir and served on the Pulpit Committee. Burial followed at The Palms Memorial Gardens, Portland.
Story by Leo Rodriguez ... See MoreSee Less
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