Women's aviation pioneer, longtime resident dies

  • Discuss Comment, Blog about
  • Print Friendly and PDF

Hazel Marjorie Hohn, well-known for her stories of life as a World War II aviator, and former Carson City resident, aviation enthusiast and writer, died Tuesday following a battle with breast cancer. She was 79.

Her life embraces the history of aviation. In a stack of simple scrapbooks, Hohn collected stories and photos of aviation events small and large AƒA¢€A¢€ especially those stories involving women aviators. Many of the stories are by her or about her life.

"A friend of mine once said 'Your mother's in the paper more than anyone I've ever known,'" noted her daughter Carol Kuhn.

Hohn will be remembered in a memorial scheduled Saturday, Jan. 26 at 11 a.m. at Fountainhead Four Square Church, 3690 Highway 395.

Hohn had much to say and sa id it well.

Born Hazel Marjorie Stamper on Friday, Oct. 13, 1922, in Brooklyn, N.Y., Hohn's interest in airplanes began in childhood. She remembers Charles Lindbergh's historic flight when she was 5. But her passion to fly began at age 11 when Amelia Ear hart, soon after her historic

Atlantic flight, visited Hohn's school in Bayonne, New Jersey.

"That was it, I was going to be a pilot," Hohn told the Nevada Appeal in 1983. " I was impressed with her and the way she described it. It was so poetic and ad venturous."

Hohn's scrapbooks contain many stories about Earhart, including coverage by The San Francisco News on March 11, 1937 about her preparations to be the first woman pilot to fly around the world. Earhart disappeared over the South Pacific during that attempt.

Most of the stories in Hohn's scrapbook relate to the Women's Airforce Service Pilots, a World War II experiment to use women pilots for transport and similar state-side duties to free the men for combat flights.

Inspired by Earhart, Hohn began flying lessons soon after high school and took a job as an aircraft welder where she could log flight hours at a bargain rate.

A few years later, she joined the WASP training program and became one of only 1,074 women to graduate from the program that included everything the men's boot camp had except combat training. Hohn graduated from the WASP 444 Class in October 1943, having just turned 21, the minimum age of eligibility

As a WASP, Hohn flew new aircraft (an activity now recognized as an eng ineering test pilot), ferried pursuit planes and bombers across North America, and taught male trainees how to fly. Hohn also towed targets for combat gunnery practice, a dangerous activity involving live ammunition fired from airplane turrets. The tow pl anes often ca ught ammunition fired inaccurately.

The women flew all manner of Air Force craft, including B-26s, known as "widowmakers" by male pilots.

"Nobody enjoys danger, but we flew everything they gave us," Hohn said in the 1983 interview. "In tho se days you were sort of grateful to have a chance to fly. You didn't look at it as if you had a right to fly like you do now."

After the war, the WASP program AƒA¢€A¢€ considered civil service AƒA¢€A¢€ was disbanded to free pilot seats for returning men.

It took 35 years to gain veteran's status for the WASPs, an effort in which Hohn worked actively. In 1978, Congress gave the women pilots full recognition as veterans.

"She was really, really, very involved with getting that through," said her daughter. "She worke d closely with (late senator) Barry Goldwater (a WWII pilot). It was a big accomplishment."

She lived in Carson City for 30 years before moving to Reno in 1991.

In recent years, Hohn worked for the Women in Milita ry Service For America Memorial in Washin gton, D.C. , dedicated in 1997. The family requests that donations be made in her name to that project. (Mail checks to Women's Memorial, Department 560, Washington, D.C. 20042-0560).

After the war, Hohn stepped down from the pilot seat to raise a famil y, but her involvement in aviation continued. Her second and former husband, Werner Hohn, was a pilot and the pair stayed involved in activities at the airports in Carson City and Reno.

"We grew up at the airpo rt," Kuhn said of herself, her sister Susan Hunt and brothers Jim Kulik and John Kulik. "I was never interested in flying myself."

"Personally, my interest was drowned out by (all the airport activity)," Hunt said.

Only John continued the family traditi on as a private pilot.

"Everything she was involved in had to do with aviation," Kuhn said of her mother's enthusiasm.

From the inception of the Reno Air Races 38 years ago, Hohn was involved. She was a member of the Experimental Aircraft Association and active with the Ninety Nines, a women's a viation organization begun by Amelia Earhart. She has placed two historical markers commemorating aviation events in Carson City and was a guest faculty member in University of Nevada, Reno aerospace education courses. She was also a member of the Christ ian Science Church of Reno.

Over the years, Hohn attended a variety of WASP reunions, organized by "The Order of Fifinella" named after the mascot designed for the WASPs by Walt Disney.

The last time Hohn sat in the pilot's seat was in 1977 when the rep lica of Charles Lindbergh's Spirit of St Louis came to Carson City. She was among the privileged few allowed to pilot the craft over the airport.

An accomplished writer, most of Hohn's work focused on aviatio n, but not everything.

She authored a collec tion of children's books, honored by University of Southern Mississippi De Grumond with section in its juvenile collection

"She always tootled around writing this and that," Hunt recalled.

Many of her writi ngs are about her experiences as a WASP.

The book "War Stories AƒA¢€A¢€ WWII Veterans Remembered" includes a chapter by Hohn with its collection of stories from 21 WWII veterans living in Nevada. Before her death she mailed her autobiography for publication.

Those who have followed Hohn's career in aviation and wish to contact the family may call Carol Kuhn at 775-883-6864.




Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment