The Heroines

Mary Chance VanScyoc

is honored with a Brick from Betty Carson.

 Mary Chance VanScyoc Mary Chance VanScyoc was born in Wichita, Kansas on December 26, 1919. She grew up in the Riverside area with her parents Lois and Gerald Chance, brother Harold, and sister Geraldine. For two years, the family lived in Kirby Castle at 1201 West River Boulevard. The owner was out of town, so the Chance family got to house-sit to keep it from being vandalized. The castle had 27 rooms, but has since been torn down.

Mr. Chance owned the Indian motorcycle dealership on North Main and built a small motorcycle for his children and presented it to them on Christmas 1931. Harold got to drive, Mary was on the back, and there was a sidecar for sister Geraldine. It was a one-of-a-kind cycle and was named the Papoose. Harold restored the Little Motorcycle and the family still gets together to ride it sometimes.

The Chances took a small carnival to Manitou, Colorado each summer from 1934 through 1940. The carnival consisted of four small race cars that Mr. Chance built, the Little Motorcycle, and a miniature steam train built by the Ottaway family. They earned enough money for Mary to go to college. After graduating from North High in 1937, she enrolled at Wichita University.

Mary took her first airplane ride with a friend of her father's, Clyde Cessna, in 1935 and fell in love with flying. She baby-sat to earn money for flying lessons and soloed the day after her 19th birthday. We have a video of her first solo flight. She was the first female aviation student at Wichita University, won the Women's State Rifle Championship in 1938, and graduated in 1941 with a degree in Physical Education and English.

She taught school at Ford, Kansas for a year and then saw an ad in the paper for Air Traffic Controllers. World War II had started and the men had left to join the service, so the jobs were opened up to women. The requirements to apply were a college degree and a pilot's license, and Mary had both. She arrived in Denver, Colorado June 1, 1942 and was the first female Air Traffic Controller in the United States. Other women soon followed. She worked as an Air Traffic Controller in Denver, Cheyenne, Hutchinson, and Wichita. Mary was the only Controller on duty at Wichita's Municipal Airport when the hangar caught fire in 1945, and 27 airplanes and a fire engine were destroyed.

Mary met her future husband in June 1947 at University Airport at 25th and Hillside. She worked there, and he was recently out of the Army and taking flying lessons. Mary had a Cessna 120 and Van had a blue convertible. Mary said she'd always wanted a convertible and Van said he's always wanted an airplane, so they decided to get married. They raised a family of three children in Augusta, Kansas where Van worked for Mobil Oil Company. Mary golfed, played bridge, and was active in Girl Scouts and church. She taught girls' Physical Education and an Aviation class at Augusta High School for several years, and was also a Juvenile Probation Officer for a while. Mary lost her only son Gary to Muscular Dystrophy and her husband to cancer in the mid-1970s, and decided to move back to Wichita to be closer to the rest of her family.

Mary has remained very active since returning to Wichita. She took helicopter lessons and soloed at age 64. A few years later, she went for a hot air balloon ride. She's currently a driver for Red Cross and has spent many hours volunteering at the Kansas Aviation Museum at the old Municipal Airport. She recently wrote a book about her life and her family called A Lifetime of Chances. She loves life more than anyone I know and makes the most of each day she's given.

Submitted by her daughters, Betty VanScyoc Carson and Martha VanScyoc Shaw

September 5, 1998