NILES, Ohio - Mary Ann Campana, 96, of Autumn Hills, formerly of Lakewood, Ohio and Youngstown, Ohio died early Friday morning at the nursing home.
Ms. Campana was born April 8, 1913, in Barrea, Province L’Aquilla Abruzzi, Italy, to Salvatore and Maria Lombardozzi Campana.
In 1921, at the age of eight, she immigrated to the United States with her family to be reunited with her father, who was working in the steel mills. It was a 14-day journey to Ellis Island.
Raised in Youngstown,(Mahoning County) Ohio, Ms. Campana was educated in the Youngstown Public Schools, attending Oak Street Elementary, Lincoln School, and East High School. She graduated from Youngstown College with a degree in merchandising.
Ms. Campana was a pioneer in Ohio, National, and International aviation. Her interest surfaced when she was visiting relatives near the Youngstown Airfield. She told her cousin she wanted to fly and was told, “Don’t be silly; girls don’t fly.” Mary Ann’s response was, “Why not? Men fly, girls fly, anybody can fly.”
Her flying endeavors remained a secret to all with the exception of her sister, brother-in-law and instructor. She earned money for flying lessons by working at her high school cafeteria and later at the G.C. Murphy store in Youngstown. In 1932, at the age of 18, she achieved the distinction of being the first licensed woman pilot in Ohio.
On July 4, 1933, with only 44 hours of prior flying time, Ms. Campana established the world’s endurance record in Light plane class for a non-refueled flight. Flying above Youngstown in a 500-pound Taylor Cub Plane with a 40-horsepower engine and loaded with 40 gallons of gasoline, she flew for 12 hours and 27 minutes without a parachute, breaking the old record by 1 hour and 10 minutes before electrical storms forced her down.
In addition to her aeronautical accomplishments, Ms. Campana was a successful business woman. At the age of 18, she worked as a sales clerk at the G.C. Murphy Co. 5 & 10 Store. From 1936 through 1964, she was employed in managerial and buyer positions for Strouss-Hirshberg in Youngstown, Polsky’s in Akron, Ohio; and the May Company in Cleveland, Ohio. In 1965, she and her business partner, Leonard C. Rosenberg founded and organized Polly Anna stores, a chain of children’s clothing shops located in Akron, Cleveland and Mentor, Ohio. She served as vice president and retired in 1981 after 16 years.
After retirement, she received numerous commendations and honors for accomplishments. She received letters of proclamations from President Ronald Reagan, senators, and state and local officials, as well as the National Association of Aeronautics. She was especially proud of being named Cavaliere of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic, which the Italian government bestowed on her in 1991, and in 1969 the Wolves Club Den VI, Youngstown, cited her as Youngstown’s first aviatrix pioneer in aviation for her courage, accomplishments, and invaluable contributions to business and the community of Youngstown.
She is survived by numerous nieces and nephews.
Besides her parents, she was preceded in death by four sisters, Anne DiCola, Edna Brown, Alda Wilson and Argie McLane.
Services will be held Monday at 9:15 a.m. at the Cunningham-Becker Funeral Home, Poland, Ohio Chapel, and 10 a.m. at St. Charles Church in Boardman, Ohio with Fr. Philip Rogers officiating.
Interment will follow at the Calvary Cemetery, Youngstown, Ohio.
Friends will be received today from 3 to 6 p.m. at the funeral home.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the charity of the donor’s choice.
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From the obituary of JOSEPH LOUIS SACCHINI
Mr. Sacchini was instrumental in getting Miss Mary Ann Campana recognized by the International Aeronautic Association, Smithsonian Institution, United States Government, Italian Government, State of Ohio, Youngstown City Government, Historical Societies of Ohio and Youngstown, Ohio, Governmental Officials, Clubs, News Media, Publishers, Writers, etc. for her achievements as an Italian immigrant who broke the World's light airplane endurance record without refueling in 12 hours and 27 minutes on June 4, 1933 over the city of Youngstown, Ohio and surrounding communities as a 19 year old.
She also has the distinction of being the first licensed teenage female pilot in Youngstown, Ohio and the State of Ohio.
On April 7, 1991, she was Knighted by the Italian Government by being named Cavaliere of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic.