Among the many she inspired, friends of Geraldine “Jerrie” Mock flew to Florida in April to scatter her ashes over the sea—a mission undertaken by a trio of pilots, led by an aircraft nearly identical to the 1953 Cessna 180 in which Mock became the first woman to circumnavigate the world solo in 1964.
Dick Merrill, who replicated the Spirit of Columbus paint scheme on his own Cessna 180 in Mock’s honor, led the formation, followed by another Cessna 180 flown by Dr. Tom Navar, also a friend of Mock. The aviatrix, whose original Spirit of Columbus hangs in the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, died Sept. 30 at her home in Quincy, Florida. Navar carried Mock’s ashes in a special container of his own design (he created a Texas company to facilitate tributes of this kind, though, like the others, he volunteered his services and aircraft for the mission).
Ohio publishers Dale Ratcliff and Wendy Hollinger, who brought Mock’s book Three-Eight Charlie back into print commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of Mock’s historic flight, followed in a third aircraft, with Ratcliff flying and Hollinger taking photos. Another passenger joined them: a mentee of Mock, Shaesta Waiz, who makes a credible claim to be the first woman born in Afghanistan to earn a pilot certificate. The Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University graduate credits Mock with fueling her own ambition to circumnavigate in 2016 and inspire other women to pursue their aviation dreams.
All of them had known Mock during her 88-year life, and they collaborated with each other and Mock’s family to arrange the special ceremony which included the aerial scattering of ashes Mock had requested. They converged from Texas, Ohio, and Tennessee for the special April 22 flight, as close to the April 17 anniversary of Mock’s return from her round-the-world journey in 1964 as weather allowed.
The mission, described on Facebook and in local media, included three passes over a white sand point where family members gathered to watch. The second pass included the release of Mock’s ashes into the air above the Gulf of Mexico, and on the third pass Navar pulled his Cessna away from the formation in the traditional missing man salute.
“It has been an honor and a privilege to know Jerrie Mock, and to work with her friends, family and supporters to spread awareness of her accomplishments and to republish her book,” Hollinger and Ratcliff wrote on Facebook. “Our lives have truly been enriched by Jerrie and the people with whom she helped us connect.”