Jerrie Mock passed away peacefully in her home in Florida on September 30, 2014. She will be missed by many, including family, friends, and fellow aviators. Those of us promoting Jerrie Mock’s story are honored to have had the opportunity to know her, and are comforted, in a small way, to have brought Jerrie the attention she so deserved, albeit on the 50th anniversary, for her record setting flight as the first woman to solo around the world.
The year was ushered in last fall, when a bronze statue of Jerrie was unveiled in her hometown at The Works: Center for History, Art & Technology on September 14, 2013. The Governor sent a proclamation to honor her and the Mayor declared it Jerrie Mock Day in Newark OH. The sculpture was created by Renate Fackler, with money raised through the Licking County Foundation. A great deal of honor is due US Veteran Bill Kelley, who launched the effort to remember Jerrie Mock in her hometown, and Jerrie’s sister Susan Reid, who spoke about her for years and was key in the fundraising process.
We released the 50th Anniversary collectible color edition of Jerrie’s book, Three-Eight Charlie, for that event. Special thanks go to my father, Terry Hollinger, for financing the printing of that edition. A commemorative postal cancellation was created with support from the Newark Postmaster, to add to the memorabilia surrounding the day. Jerrie watched via Skype and answered questions from attendees, including fellow classmates from Newark High School.
Those attending the unveiling included many who continued to work throughout the year to increase awareness and commemorate Jerrie’s record. The Spirit of Columbus Chapter of Women in Aviation was named to honor Jerrie and her plane, and Chapter President Kelly Nash spoke at the event. Chapter 402 of the Experimental Aviation Association, The 99’s, Civil Air Patrol, and many other organizations (of which she was a member or honorary member) attended, donated, and provided support throughout the year.
Shirley Brooks-Jones was so inspired that she committed to place a statue of Jerrie Mock at Port Columbus International Airport, and she and the Pilot Club of Columbus established the Jerrie Mock Pilot Fund at the Columbus Foundation to raise the funds to make it happen. She worked with Doug Kridler, CEO of the Columbus Foundation, and Elaine Roberts, President and CEO of the Columbus Regional Airport Authority, to acquire permissions, and Renate Fackler created an updated statue for the Airport, in which Jerrie held a globe with her stops identified.
Jerrie took off from Columbus on March 19, 1964 so that date in 2014 launched the 50th Anniversary events. The Columbus Foundation held their Spirit of Columbus Awards dinner, where they presented miniature versions of Jerrie’s statue. (Jerrie was the first honorary recipient, in 2013.) Each day from March 19 – April 17 we posted updates and photos from Jerrie’s trip, so readers could experience it just as readers of the Columbus Dispatch (one of the original sponsors) followed her progress in 1964. John Sivyer interviewed Jerrie about each leg of the flight, and the audio was posted so people could hear Jerrie’s story in her own voice. The Facebook and Twitter names are Fly38Charlie, and we hope to replay those posts annually.
On the morning of April 17, 2014 Jerrie Mock’s statue was unveiled at Port Columbus Airport, where (after renovations are completed) it will be housed in the new Legends display. Speakers and proclamations abounded, the many key contributors were acknowledged, and Doug Kridler presented the WAI Spirit of Columbus Chapter with a $2500 award that will fund a scholarship program in Jerrie’s name. A postal cancellation was created for this day, as a nod to the “covers” Jerrie carried in 1964 and postmarked in Wake Island.
To top off the day, at 9:36 p.m. we recreated Jerrie’s triumphant return to Columbus! Martha Lunken flew a Cessna 180 in and we received special permission from ATC for Martha to use Jerrie’s call letters. Those assembled heard “3 8 Charlie is cleared for landing” over the radio as she approached and around the world others listened via LiveATC.net, as a result of efforts by founder Dave Pascoe. (Ms. Lunken has been a pilot for 52 years, is an FAA Examiner, contributor to Flying magazine and owns a 180 – the type of plane Jerrie flew.) Jerrie’s sister Susan and daughter Valerie Armentrout (who was 3 years old when Jerrie made this trip) greeted Martha with flowers while photographers flashed photos. The Spirit of Columbus Chapter of WAI hosted a reception at Landmark Aviation, with help from GM Irene Batty, to welcome Martha and toast Jerrie. More speakers and proclamations were presented and Jerrie watched it all via Skype from her home in Florida. We released paperback and ebook editions of Three-Eight Charlie to make her story available to everyone. To close the event, Jerrie addressed the crowd herself, thanking them for attending.
Jerrie’s grandson, Eddie Mock, worked throughout the year to coordinate permissions, interviews, skype sessions, book signings and anything else Jerrie’s supporters needed to help promote awareness of her accomplishments. Old friends reconnected and new called and traveled to visit Jerrie. Thousands learned about Jerrie through a longform article at BuzzFeed, by Amy Saunders. Curator of the Spirit of Columbus at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy Center, Dorothy Cochrane, invited me to speak there about Jerrie on Family Day. And the Women’s Air and Space Museum in Cleveland held a special Jerrie Mock Day with learning activities. A producer signed a contract with Jerrie to “shop” her story around Hollywood, in pursuit of her last and fondest goal – to bring this story to the big screen. We were proud to represent Jerrie in the Author’s Corner at EAA’s Airventure in Oshkosh, and to present her story from their main stage. She has since been inducted into the Columbus Hall of Fame and recognized in many publications.
Our remaining goals include having a stamp made in Jerrie’s honor, and having her inducted into the Aviation Hall of Fame in Dayton, OH and the First Flight Society in Kitty Hawk, NC. We are now raising funds to create a permanent exhibit about her at The Works, so those who see her sculpture can learn more about this local aviation heroine. To support this goal, send your donation to The Works with a note that it is for Jerrie Mock’s permanent exhibit.
Although Jerrie was a private person, she enjoyed the events and attention this anniversary year brought. Once completed, she got her affairs in order, declined Hospice support, and died peacefully at home, with family, on her own terms, just the way she lived her life. At her request, her ashes will be spread from the air, over the Gulf of Mexico. The service will include a Cessna 180 which has been painted to exactly match her beloved Charlie, the Spirit of Columbus.
I am grateful that Susan Reid spoke at the Newark-Heath Chapter of EAA Christmas dinner three years ago. There we learned Jerrie’s story, and that her book was out of print and no longer available. It has been a whirlwind since then, meeting and spending time with Jerrie, publishing her book, and promoting her story. We have met many interesting people and had experiences which will never be matched. But our feelings for Jerrie Mock, the first woman to fly solo around the world, can’t truly be put into words. We can only say thank you.
Jerrie signed her books the way I’ll close this final post of 2014:
Blue skies always, Jerrie Mock
The Works: Center for History, Art & Technology:
The Licking County Foundation:
Women in Aviation International:
Women in Aviation Spirit of Columbus Chapter:
Experimental Aviation Association:
Experimental Aviation Association Chapter 402:
The Columbus Foundation:
Columbus Regional Airport Authority:
Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy Center:
International Women’s Air & Space Museum:
National Aviation Hall of Fame:
First Flight Society: