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The Branstetters practiced takeoffs and landings at their local airport in Ponca City, Okla., the manager, Don Nuzum, said.

“There’d be times I’d see them two, three times in a week,” Nuzum said. “I don’t think they slowed down very much.”

And they challenged themselves with faraway trips _ like the one to the North Pole, where they dropped a plaque with their names on it, a copy of the New Testament and letters to Santa Claus from schoolchildren in Ponca City. That same charitable spirit married with their sense of adventure in their angel flights to transport cancer patients to hospitals.

“They took lots of people lots of places and introduced a lot of people to the joys of flying,” Paul Branstetter said.

They also established scholarships for aviation and business students at Oklahoma State, where they met about a half-century ago at a political rally.

One of the scholarships, named after Paula, honors her accomplishments as a pilot, according to a newsletter from the school’s education college in 2000.

“We believe everyone can do something extraordinary and this scholarship is one way of encouraging others to follow their own dreams,” Olin Branstetter was quoted as saying in that pamphlet. “When we started flying, I appreciated so much that Mrs. Branstetter wasn’t afraid to learn to fly. I hope young women will feel the same way.”

The Branstetters have maintained their allegiance to Oklahoma State _ where the couple met _ since Olin graduated from what was then Oklahoma A&M in Stillwater, Okla., in 1952. Paula racked up three years at the school, but never graduated.

Over the years, they became fixtures at athletic events and got to know the coaches.

“They would sit behind the scorer’s table and loved to watch Cowgirls basketball,” said Jim Littell, the interim head coach for Oklahoma State’s women’s basketball team. “Everyone in the section knew him, and they knew he loved the Cowgirls.”


Murphy reported from Stillwater, Okla.

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