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‘Dorothy Rungeling Airport’ makes her day

Dorothy Rungeling is delighted to hear local airport may bear her name.

“Oh my goodness,” she said in a telephone interview.

“I did do a lot for the airport, but I did it because I loved doing it.”

The 103-year-old said on hearing the news about an attempt to rename airport “you made my day, made my week and made my life.”

Town council last week backed a suggestion to change the airport’s name to the Niagara Central Dorothy Rungeling Airport.

Following a presentation by resident Carolyn Botari and a letter from the Niagara Central Airport Commission, council endorsed the name change.

It will honour the well-known Pelham resident who received the Order of Canada and international recognition for her contributions to aviation.

She continues as a member of the Ninety-Nines, an international organization of women in aviation founded by Amelia Earhart. Canada Post honoured Rungeling and the Ninety-Nines with a stamp for her 99th birthday. Rungeling also received the Amelia Earhart medal.

In the 1950s, she promoted the then Welland Airport, flew in international air races, trained pilots, broke ground for Canadian women in commercial flying, and, wrote newspaper and magazine articles about aviation.

Botari outlined Rungeling’s flying career, which included Canadian and international races, in which she was often the only woman or only Canadian.

“In 1959, she continued to promote aviation and lead a crusade to get ‘Welland’ air marked on the huge roof of the Atlas Steels building,” Botari told council.

“This became the very first air marking in Eastern Canada.”

She went on to outline Rungeling’s efforts to save the airport when it hit financial difficulties.

“She was appointed business manager of the flying club and succeeded in saving both the flying club and the airport.”

Emotion overtook Botari during her presentation:”We love her so much.”

“This year Dorothy will turn 104. This woman once dubbed ‘Canada’s Flying Housewife’ will always be one of Canada’s most illustrious women pilots.”

Mayor Dave Augustyn finished reading the presentation.

Ward 1 Coun. Richard Rybiak, who also chairs the airport commission, said the commission is seeking support for the name change from Pelham, Welland, Wainfleet and Port Colborne. The municipalities jointly own the airport.

The commission has started the paperwork with the provincial government for the name change.

It is asking local MPPs Cindy Forster and Tim Hudak to present a private member’s bill in the Ontario legislature to officially endorse it.

Rungeling said she has donated a lot of her airport and other memorabilia to Brock University.

She learned to fly at the airport, encouraged by her young son and husband Charles Rungeling, before she played a key in its operation.

Rungeling has kept tabs on Niagara Central. She asks for the latest news, how it is operating and its current services.

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