RITA ANN ORR
Rita Ann Orr, honored by a number of aviation organizations for her pioneering work in aviation, passed away on Wednesday, November 18, 2009 at her home in Faribault, Minnesota.
Rita Ann Bondy was born July 15, 1921 in Detroit, Michigan, to parents Anna and Leo R. Bondy.
She met her future husband, Doctor Burton A. Orr of Faribault in 1943 as student pilots at the Detroit City Airport.
Orr earned her Private Pilot Certificate in 1944.
To pay for flying lessons, she sold rides to people parked along the road to watch airplanes take off and land.
In 1978 she completed Commercial Pilot training and earned a Commercial Pilot Certificate with an instrument rating.
Rita was the first woman President of the Faribault Area Pilots Association and continued to actively participate in all airport activities including, hangar dances, fly-in breakfasts, Youth in Aviation, and the Tree of Hope toy collection at Christmas.
She also was the first woman to serve on the Faribault Airport Board.
Orr was instrumental in getting the runway lengthened in 1980 to accommodate light jet traffic, thus enhancing local businesses.
Due to her unique background, Orr was a frequent speaker, addressing service organizations including Rotary and Exchange Club. She was also invited to give aviation educational presentations at area schools.
After moving to Minnesota in 1948, Orr founded the Minnesota Chapter of the Ninety-Nines, The International Organization of Women Pilots. Amelia Earhart founded The Ninety-Nines organization in 1929. Orr served three terms as the Minnesota Chapter Chairman and subsequently was elected to the office of North Central Section Governor.
In August of 1957 Orr organized the unique “Penny a Pound Airlift” in Faribault. Prospective passengers weighed-in and paid one cent per pound. Proceeds from the airlift went to the Amelia Earhart Scholarship Fund founded by the Ninety-Nines. The event was so successful that by the end of the day exhausted pilots had to stop accepting passengers. The entire event helped to spark community interest and support for the airport.
The Minnesota Aviation Trades Association named her as a “Pioneer in Aviation” with a Distinguished Service Award in 1969.
In 1991 Orr received the coveted honor of induction into the International Forest of Friendship. The International Forest of Friendship is located in Atchison, Kansas, the birthplace of Amelia Earhart.
Inductees are recognized with granite plaques inlayed along Memory Lane. These plaques recognize individuals who have made notable contributions to aviation and aerospace.
Orr is accompanied in the Forest by Amelia Earhart, Charles Lindbergh, the Wright Brothers, Chuck Yeager, and Sally Ride.
Adjacent to her plaque is the memorial plaque for the 10 astronauts who at that time had given their lives in space exploration.
During the 1970s and 1980s Orr was active in the Red Cross Blood Flight Program. During this time she donated her time and aircraft flying blood from outlying areas to Red Cross headquarters in St. Paul.
She personally flew over 300 of the 3500 hundred flights made during that time.
Her superior contributions to the Red Cross Flight program both as a pilot and organizer, were featured in The Minneapolis Tribune Parade Magazine Program April 3, 1983.
Serving as a volunteer pilot for the American Cancer Society during the 1980s she transported daffodils.
Again, she donated her time and aircraft, delivering thousands of American Cancer Society fundraising daffodils to outlying areas all over the region.
Chosen as the official pilot for the governor’s campaign, Orr flew Minnesota gubernatorial candidate Al Quie from 1975 until his election in 1978.
In September of 1982, Orr competed in the Minnesota finals for a spot on the U.S. Precision Flight Team (USPFT). Flying her Beechcraft Bonanza she competed against professional pilot and flight instructor Len Christian of Hugo, piloting a C-150.
Orr earned second place in the competition, giving her the opportunity to represent the United States in the international competition in Norway.
In August 1993 Orr celebrated her fifty years as a pilot from her first solo in a Luscombe to flying her Beechcraft Bonanza and subsequently her Cessna 182.
When asked how she came to be a pilot at such an early age she commented, “I always knew I wanted to fly. Other little girls played with dolls, I made a cockpit to play in.”
On February 27, 2007 Orr’s 50 years of flying was officially recognized by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) with the prestigious Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award. This award acknowledges pilots who have maintained a minimum of 50 years of continuous safe flight. Recipients of this award are recorded on the FAA Role of Honor posted on a special FAA Safety Team website.
Rita continued to fly as an active pilot until early this year marking her 66th year of flight.
The September 17, 2006 issue of the Faribault Daily News Time Out Section featured her on-going pilot activity. During her years as a pilot in Faribault hundreds of Faribault residents credit their first and perhaps only flight in an airplane to her.
Her legacy as a pilot is passed on in her children. William is a private pilot. Janice holds both Airline Transport Pilot and Gold Seal Flight Instructor Certificates. She took up aviation as a career, flying as an Air Ambulance Pilot and FAA Aviation Safety Inspector.
Orr also served the Faribault community for 22 years as a District One Hospital Volunteer. She worked weekly in the gift shop and delivered Meals on Wheels.
She was an avid golfer and bridge player; she belonged to The Book Group, Faribault Women’s Club, and was a member of the Monday Club of Faribault. She was also active in the Senior Citizen’s Club. At the end of the day she would often say, “Let’s just see what tomorrow brings”.
Orr is preceded in death by her parents, husband Burton A. Orr of Faribault and three siblings Teresa, Donald and Patrick Bondy of Michigan.
She is survived by two brothers, William Bondy of Michigan, and Lee Bondy of California.
She is also survived by her children Janice (and Patrick) Pelletti, Piney Flats, Tennessee, Cynthia Orr, M.Ed, Faribault, William (and Jenifer) Orr, PhD, M.D., Eagan, Minnesota and three grandchildren, Emily, Rachel and Zachary Orr.
Funeral services will be held on Monday, November 23, 2009 at 10:30 a.m. at the Cathedral of Our Merciful Saviour, Faribault, MN
Interment will at Maple Lawn Cemetery, Faribault, Minnesota.
Memorial donations to the Minnesota Chapter of the
of the Ninety-Nines, The International Organization of Women Pilots, for the Amelia Earhart scholarship fund.www.minnesota99s.org