Dorothy Rungeling dies at 106

Dorothy Rungeling, on her 106th birthday. DAVE BURKET PHOTO


Memorial service planning underway at Lookout Ridge retirement home


Dorothy Rungeling, a lifelong Pelham resident who was awarded the Order of Canada for her feats in aviation, died on Saturday. Rungeling was born in 1911 and adopted by the writer Ethelwyn Wetherald. In 1927 she got her driver’s license; in 1949 she became a pilot.

Nobody knew I was learning to fly because I thought everybody would be against it,” Rungeling told the Voice last year. “But they weren’t.”

Rungeling’s husband, Charlie, supported her career and she soon became known as “Canada’s Flying Housewife,” winning numerous races including one that ended in pre-revolution Cuba.

In 1954 she was the first Canadian woman to earn an Airline Transport License, and she was also the first Canadian woman to conduct a solo helicopter flight.

In 1964, she was elected Pelham’s first female Councillor. In 2015, the airport in Welland was renamed in her honour.

Rungeling enjoyed good health well after her 100th birthday, turning in her driver’s license only when she was 102. She was the author of several books, mostly memoirs of her youth and her years flying, but also one called “It’s Fun to Grow Old.”

Though she outlived all of her contemporaries, Rungeling continued to make new friends up until the end, including at Lookout Ridge Retirement Home, where she lived during her final years. Plans are being made to hold a memorial service for her there.

Though Rungeling last flew a plane in the 1970s, her deep love for being airborne never left. When she was 101, a young acquaintance of hers remarked that he had a friend who’d be interested in taking Rungeling up for a spin in his two-seater.

Oh, I’ve had lots of chances to go up,” said Rungeling. “But I always say no. I’m afraid I’ll catch the bug again.”

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