In 1964, Geraldine ‘Jerrie’ Mock accomplished what Amelia Earhart died attempting to do in the 1930’s. The Newark native and adventurer, who passed away this week at the age of 88, is the first woman to finish a solo flight around the world.
Even as a young girl, Jerrie knew she didn’t want to live an average life. By the age of 7, she fell in love with flying and eventually attended Ohio State University for aeronautical engineering. Although, she dropped out when she married Russell Mock in 1945, she still continued to take flying lessons while her children were busy in school.
One dinner conversation with her husband, however, was what sparked her desire to fly solo around the world. She brought up the idea originally as a joke – simply a way to cure her boredom, but this eventually turned into a full-fledged plan.
Accordingly, she took off from Port Columbus on March 19, 1964, in a single-engine Cessna 180, aptly named “Spirit of Columbus.” The journey along the way, however, was anything, but easy. She preserved through several life-threatening instances: from a violent storm while flying from Morocco to icy conditions over the Atlantic Ocean.
By the time she returned to Columbia, on April 17, she had an eager fan base of 5,000 people waiting for her. Soon, she became a fixation in the media, appearing on TV and even getting the opportunity to visit President Lyndon B. Johnson, who awarded her a medal.
Yet, despite these incredible achievements, Jerrie was always been humble and shied away from any public attention. Thus, her accomplishment was eventually forgotten for decades afterward, especially in lieu of the series of upheavals that characterized the ‘60s and the fact that a man, Wiley Post, also completed the same feat thirty years earlier in 1933.
Last September, however, a bronze statute of Jerrie was erected in Newark to memorialize her daring adventure and Port Columbus unveiled a similar one in April as commemoration of the 50th anniversary of her journey home. On Columbus Day, Oct. 13, Jerrie will also be added to the city of Columbus Hall of Fame in City Hall.
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