17 Jun 1921 – 28 Jul 2008
ZUI this article from the Fort Wayne (IN) Journal Gazette:
Aviation pioneer and beloved local legend Margaret Ray Ringenberg, 87, died in her sleep Monday in Oshkosh, Wis.
Known around the country for her flying skills and love of aircraft, having spent nearly five years of her life in the air as a pilot, Ringenberg was in Oshkosh for an air show to give a presentation as a former member of the Women’s Air Force Service Pilots, or WASPs, officials said.
And as late as last month, Ringenberg competed in the 2,312-mile women-only Air Race Classic, flying from Bozeman, Mont., to Mansfield, Mass., and finishing third, along with co-pilot Carolyn Van Newkirk, according to race results.
According to her biography, Ringenberg took her first flight, from a farmer’s field, at age 7. In 1998, Tom Brokaw spent an entire chapter of his best-selling book “The Greatest Generation” on Ringenberg. She gave him a flying lesson when he interviewed her.
She told him she never intended to be a pilot.
“I started out flying because I wanted to be a stewardess – you call them flight attendants nowadays – and I thought ‘what if the pilot gets sick or needs help?’ I don’t know the first thing about airplanes and that’s where I found my challenge,” Ringenberg told Brokaw. “I found it was wonderful.”
ZUI also this article from the Fort Wayne (IN) News-Sentinel:
As a pilot, Ringenberg logged more than 40,000 hours and raced in every Powder Puff Derby - a transcontinental women's air race - between 1957 and 1977, when it ended. She had also flown in every Air Race Classic since 1997, including the most recent just a month ago. Ringenberg and her teammate, Carolyn Van Newkirk, finished third among 30 teams, flying from Bozeman, Mont., to Mansfield, Mass.
In 1994, at age 72, she was the oldest entrant in the Round-the-World Air Race. In 2002, she was one of six people honored by the Indiana Historical Society as a Living Legend, and in March was inducted into the Pioneer Hall of Fame during the Women in Aviation International Conference in San Diego. It was one of more than 150 awards she received as an aviator, author, speaker and leader for women everywhere.
In addition to [her daughter, Marsha J.] Wright, Ringenberg is survived by a son, Michael J. of Leo-Cedarville, four grandsons and one granddaughter. She was preceded in death by her husband of 56 years, Morris J. Ringenberg, in 2003.
For more about the Women’s Air Force Service Pilots, see here.