Nova Anderson Weller has always had her head in clouds, yet her feet firmly planted on the ground.
This dual nature has allowed her to succeed in many roles.
She’s an ingenious digital photographer who loves to “experiment like crazy” in her artistic creations. She’s also a scientist – one who worked as an aeronautical engineer during World War II and meticulously plotted flight path calculations.
Even as a child, Nova knew how to chart her course. At 14, she dreamed of flying planes, so she saved her babysitting money for flying lessons. Soon she was in the co-pilot’s seat, soaring above Columbus.
A gifted science student in high school, Nova seized an opportunity to use her intelligence to help the war effort. “Most of the men who worked in engineering were being drafted, and the military was desperate for more engineers. The Navy and Curtiss-Wright, an airplane manufacturer, created an all-girls engineering program at Purdue University. I applied and got accepted.”
Nova was just 17 when she arrived at Purdue, where she took accelerated engineering classes, then landed a job at Curtiss-Wright in Columbus. She helped redesign the instrument panel for the Helldiver, a dive bomber aircraft used by the Navy. After the war, Nova conducted flight path calculations on German rockets captured in the war. She loved her work, but when the war ended, women were laid off because men reclaimed their jobs.
Nova proved resilient. She’d always loved nature, from her childhood days in Logan, Ohio. She enrolled at Ohio State University and earned a degree in horticulture. The adventurous graduate moved to California to grow orchids, but a year later, her father got sick, and she returned home.
“I realized that engineers got paid better than horticulturists, and they don’t grow orchids in Ohio, so I went to work for Battelle,” she says.
The only woman in the mechanical engineering department, Nova worked on classified projects for six years at Battelle. There she met Bert, a chemical engineer, and they married. Nova left in 1957 after giving birth to her daughter Lynn. Two more children followed – Gary and Chip – and Nova stayed home to raise her family. “All three of my children went on to become engineers,” she says proudly.
During this time Nova took up a new hobby – photography. She pursued it with the passion and diligence that marked her engineering and horticulture studies. She bought a Nikon camera, joined three camera clubs and turned her lens on nature, capturing everything large and small, from impressive waterfalls to tiny tree sprouts.
When photography went digital, Nova’s imagination took flight. “I loved to experiment like crazy, putting my photographs into the computer and manipulating them.”
Nova served as a volunteer photographer for Franklin Park Conservatory for 12 years. “I was the only photographer they had, and I took pictures every week.” Many were printed in The Columbus Dispatch.
She won awards at the Ohio State Fair and from the West Bridge Camera Club. Her work has been displayed at Willow Brook at Delaware Run, where Nova, 90, lives in an airy apartment filled with her photography.
While she’s flown under the radar for her wartime service, Nova was honored in a book, “Flying into Yesterday,” which tells the story of the 918 women who served as Curtiss-Wright Aeronautical Engineering Cadettes. When the author asked Nova about the impact of her work, Nova responded in her no-nonsense style: “We won the war.”