Honoring those who have left a small hole in our hearts

Karen Young

On March 11 we lost a chapter member, Karen Young, whom most of us had only begun to know. She and her passenger Thomas Spickermann (also a pilot) died in a fatal crash near the Ohkay Owingeh Airport north of Espanola, New Mexico. She had been a member of our chapter since June 2015.

The Karen Effect.… that’s what I called it. Flying with Karen made me a better pilot. For the last few months, we had been doing pattern work and practicing aviation maneuvers together, while also doing impersonations of our flight instructor, Michael, to help reinforce all that he had taught us. When I was working on something like not turning too early from base to final, I would watch Karen do it and she would explain the details of her technique to me. Then, at my next lesson, I would be so much better at it that even Michael would comment on the improvement. This is the Karen Effect. When I told her about it, she just laughed it off, wouldn’t take the credit, and congratulated me on my improving skills. But, it happened repeatedly. I kept telling her that the Karen Effect was real!

After most every flying experience, we would call each other and share lessons learned. We would enthusiastically describe the “dumb things” we had done that day and how we recovered from them. We both laughed about it and learned from it. When flying, I constantly think about all the things we learned together. That will never change.

Karen also delighted in taking her family flying, especially her boys. We often talked about our boys – her two being about 10 years younger than my two. She asked me about parenting advice in the teenage years. She sent me pictures and videos of them in the plane, making a radio call to the Santa Fe tower, and doing ridiculous flight simulations that made me laugh out loud. She was a dedicated mother and was so proud of those boys.

I think the Karen Effect extends beyond aviation. She was such a wickedly smart and deeply kind person that just didn’t have a mean bone in her body. Hanging out with her not only made me a better pilot, it made me a better person. That was a gift she gave to everyone she knew. I will miss her greatly but know that I will never fly solo as she will always be in that seat beside me, doing Michael impersonations… Blue skies, my dear friend.

— Tina Andres

Iona May Inmon Gamertsfelder

Iona Gamertsfelder of Las Vegas, N.M., died of cancer on Tuesday, September 18, 2013 at the age of 84. She went to the doctor to get help with her back ache, only to learn that she had cancer. Her daughter, Laura Tapia, said she was gone in only two to three weeks. She is buried in the Santa Fe National Cemetery next to her husband Paul, who passed away just nine months ago.

Iona was born in 1929 on the Inmon Ranch, in the far southwestern bootheel of New Mexico. She was a golfer, pilot, teacher and homemaker with 4 children, 11 grandkids and 5 great-grandkids. A member of the 99s since 1990, Iona learned to fly as a teenager—she and her brother flew their J-3 Cub from the ranch to school every day—and she received her pilot’s license nearly 50 years later. Delightfully spunky, Iona will be missed by all of her Rio Grande Norte chapter sisters.

Barbara A. Doolittle

On May 27, 2013, Barbara A. Doolittle, of Watrous and Santa Fe, NM, passed into her next great adventure. She went peacefully, surrounded by love. She was a rancher, pilot, world traveler, and loving counsel to all who knew her. Barbara was a charter member of the Rio Grande Norte Chapter Ninety-Nines, and though not active in recent years, she was an enthusiastic supporter of women in aviation. Two of Barbara’s children followed her into aviation, as did her late husband. Her family and friends will miss her but we know that her essence is still with us and that she has a great journey ahead of her.

Arlene C. Walsh

“A day without chocolate is like a day without sunshine” was my favorite of Arlene Walsh’s sayings. She had ready comments about the Black Fairy, particularly when she got herself into Arlene’s computer and that “Pluto must be in retrograde” to explain an unpleasant day. A poet, pilot, knitter, teacher, author and airplane builder, Arlene lived each and every day with dreams and goals, but most importantly, love and a great sense of humor. She was life embodied and oh, how she loved to fly with us.

A charter member of the Rio Grande Norte Chapter, Arlene was instrumental in locating the women that formed the nucleus of the chapter. A resident of Santa Fe for 22 years, she found us all and brought us together. Sadly, while driving to her favorite airshow, an antique biplane event in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, Arlene died in a single automobile accident in Clayton, NM on May 31, 2007. She was 71 and truly knew how to live.

— Susan Larson

To honor Arlene’s memory, the chapter raised $1500 for a New Pilot scholarship, which was awarded during the Amelia Earhart Memorial Scholarship Awards Banquet in Anchorage, Alaska, in August 2008.

Arlene was building a pietenpol biplane. After her death it was donated to a Build-a-Plane project in Alaska, where students will finish it. Arlene would have loved that!