R.I.P. Jerrie Mock

Geraldine “Jerrie” Mock died last Tuesday at her home in Quincy, Florida. If the name doesn’t sound familiar to you, it’s because she did not receive the lasting fame she should have for the stunt she pulled in 1964. Mock undertook the goal that eluded Amelia Earhart in 1937: she was the first woman to fly around the world solo.

When she took off on March 19, 1964, from Columbus, Ohio, Ms. Mock was a 38-year-old homemaker and recreational pilot who had logged a meager 750 hours of flight time. She returned there on April 17 — 29 days, 11 hours and 59 minutes later — after a 23,000-mile journey over the Atlantic, the Mediterranean, the Red Sea, the Gulf of Oman, the Arabian Sea and the Pacific, with stops in the Azores, Casablanca, Cairo, Karachi, Calcutta, Bangkok and Honolulu, among other places.

She was stalled by high winds in Bermuda and battled rough weather between Casablanca and Bone, Algeria. She navigated 1,300 miles over the Pacific from Guam to tiny Wake Island, three miles in diameter, without the benefit of ground signals. Between Bangkok and Manila, she flew over embattled Vietnam.

“Somewhere not far away a war was being fought,” she wrote later, “but from the sky above, all looked peaceful.”

Ms. Mock was given the Gold Medal Award from the FAA, which she received from President Lyndon Johnson in a White House ceremony. She was not excited about making speeches or personal appearances. However, she made the public speaking rounds to repay her sponsors, which included appearances on TV.

“You left your husband alone for 29 days,” the actor Orson Bean, a panelist on the quiz show “To Tell the Truth,” said to her when she appeared as a guest. “What did he do? I mean, who cleaned the house and all?”

You can read more about Jerrie Mock at the New York Times. Ms. Mock was 88.  

(Image credit: National Air and Space Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution)

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