Mildred I. Zimmerman passed away peacefully on April 4, 2018 in her home of 68 years. She was in her 96th year.
A woman blessed with many talents, she led a fulfilling and productive life, devoted to family, flying, and helping those in need.
She became interested in flying at an early age, initially because the man she loved was an avid pilot. As time went by, the romance blossomed, as did her love of flying, and she continued to grow both relationships for years to come.
Her interest in flying led her to many exciting adventures and accomplishments.
In 1949, at the age of 27, she established the world’s altitude record for planes in her category. Her grandchildren have always teased her, saying that no one would ever break her record, as that type of plane isn’t being made anymore.
As WW II approached, she participated in the Civilian Pilot Training Program as a flight instructor at Dickinson College in Carlisle, PA, during which time she trained scores of young people to fly for the Armed Forces. As one of only a few women in the program, she always said that she enjoyed having a man hold her chair, open a door for her, and stand when she came into the room, but she preferred to crank her own propeller.
In 1958, she and her co-pilot were participants, finishing in 7th place, in the annual Powder Puff trans-continental Air Derby, a 2100-mile race from San Diego to Charlestown, SC.
With a commercial license, she was a sometimes corporate pilot for about 25 years. Being very petite in stature, she once landed a jet in which she had to stand up on the brake pedals to stop the plane before reaching the end of the runway.
At 49, when her husband was killed in a tragic accident, her life took a new twist, as she devoted much of her time to helping those less fortunate. Some of her favored activities were the Play Lady Program at the General Hospital, working tirelessly to organize transportation for summer campers through the Mental Health Association, and spending a decade feeding breakfast to the homeless at St. James’ Episcopal Church.
As a member of the Lancaster Country Club, she also enjoyed playing bridge, golf, and tennis with friends.
In the early 70s, as her grandchildren came along, she was the consummate “Nanna”, always introducing them to new places and exciting adventures. Well into her sixties, she could still be seen with them on a toboggan, careening down her steep backyard hillside and then pulling them up the hill behind her.
She will be sorely missed, but the gifts and wisdom that she imparted to her family will be cherished forever.
She was pre-deceased by her husband, E. Reed Zimmerman. She is survived by a daughter, Cathryn Z. Appel (wife of James W.), two grandsons, James Z. Appel, III, MD (married to Leonie) of Charlotte, NC and Thomas E. Reed Appel, Esq. (married to Yuliya) of Alexandria, VA, and five Appel great-grandchildren, Hadley, Reed, Adrian, Peyton, and Gordon.
There will be a private service at the convenience of the family. If you are so inclined, please make a donation in her honor to the charity of your choice.