Columbus - Joan Elizabeth Mace, 97, passed away peacefully on Tuesday, Dec. 28, 2021 with family and former student and long-time friend, Connie Tobias, at her side.
Joan was an aviation trail blazer expanding aviation firsts for women — a pioneer, inspiration and role model for women.
Joan was born in Columbus to the late Arthur O. and Malvina A. (Fraser) Rodrian and is survived by her sons, Mark (Kim) and Patrick (Tammy) Mac; grandsons, Randy, Brian (Maggie), Jordan and Jared; and great granddaughter, Remi.
In addition to her parents, Joan was preceded in death by her husband of 35 years, Nolan H. Mace; sister, Marilyn Nonnemacher; and son,Michael Mace.
After graduating from Caldwell High School in 1942, Joan inspected rivets and landing gear for the Navy's Hell Diver aircraft at Curtiss Wright while learning to fly at Price Field in Columbus. She earned her private pilot's license in 1943 and was accepted into the WASP (Women Air Service Pilots) program in 1944. Before she reported to training, the program disbanded due to the war ending. After the war, Joan applied to the airlines but was told women weren't qualified to be pilots. She then became the only woman instructor among 22 flight instructors in Athens, Ohio until 1948 when the GI program ended.
Joan married her fellow flight instructor, Nolan, in 1948 and they had three sons. In 1963, Ohio University (OU) purchased the Athens airport and offered Joan a flight instructor position. Her aviation career was full of accomplishments and awards. In 1970, Joan became one of only 60 women in the country to hold a multi-engine airline transport rating, the FAA's highest rating. She also became a designated flight examiner for the FAA for the next 25 years. OU implemented a policy whereby all professors were required to have a college degree. Joan worked on her degree for 10 years and graduated in 1978 with her oldest son, Mark.
Joan flew in several women's air races across the country, including the Powder Puff Derby and Angel Derby. She finished second one year but she'll be quick to tell you the story of how she was cheated out of first place.
In 1985, Joan became chairman of the OU Aviation Department, the first female to head a university aviation department. She established an Aviation Advisory Board, started a 4-year aviation program, added airline internships and oversaw the construction of the Aviation Flight Training Center. She was "forced" to retire at age 70 and moved to Florida where she flew for the Coast Guard Auxiliary. Joan said the hardest part of the Coast Guard training was not flying but swimming fully-clothed 50 yards and climbing into a lift raft. "Comical" she said.
Joan went on to log over 12,000 flight hours in her 65-year aviation career. She fulfilled a life-long dream while enjoying her favorite hobby. She often said "Don't tell OU, but I would have worked for free."
Former students went on to become airline captains, Blue Angels, Thunderbirds, air traffic controllers, NetJets and corporate pilots, NASA employees, the Coors Silver Bullet pilot and the pilot featured in the film "Battle Hymn".
Joan received numerous awards during her career, including induction into the National Flight Instructor Hall of Fame, being a National Aviation Hall of Fame nominee, and receiving the FAA's highest acknowledgement of service in aviation, The FAA Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award. She also received the NAA Elder Statesman Award in Washington DC and was included in the Amelia Earhart International Forest of Friendship (aviation's Grauman's Chinese Theatre). Joan served on the OU National Alumni Board, was an Alumna of the Year and received the Medal of Merit Award-OU's highest alumni award.
Of all her accomplishments, her pride was in the heart and soul she held for basic flight instruction. Over 1,000 students were pushed from their nest by a woman who dreamed about flying, made it come true and dared others to share her fantasy.
The family would like to thank the staff of Brookdale Hospice for the wonderful care provided to Joan and her family.
A Celebration of Life service will be held on Saturday, March 5, 2022, from 2 to 5 p.m. at Schoedinger Dublin, 5980 Perimeter Dr., Dublin, Ohio 43017.
Family will receive friends from 2-3 p.m. followed by a short service at 3 p.m. and a light reception to follow until 5 p.m.
In lieu of flowers, please consider a contribution to the Joan Mace Scholarship Fund, c/o Ohio University Foundation, P.O. Box 869, Athens, Ohio 45701 which benefits female aviation students at Ohio University.
To leave online condolences visit www.schoedinger.com. Joan Mace