This article appeared in the Dayton Daily News on April 19, 1997
91-YEAR-OLD SAYS SHE FLEW WITH ORVILLE
She may be last living person with that honor
By Roz Young
'I was able to get For the Love of Dayton, the bicentennial Daily News publication, for both myself and another darling 91-year-old in Sandwich," says a letter from Anne Munger Seavey of Cape Cod. I saw it when it was given to friends for Christmas. (You'd be surprised how many ex-Daytonians there are on Cape Cod!)
"On page 253, it says that the Wright brothers' favorite niece died, the last living person who rode in a plane piloted by Orville Wright. Not true! My 91-year-old friend, Isabel Pifer, was interviewed by the Cape Cod Times, printed Jan. 26, 1997, and she rode with Orville at age 8 in 1913. I called her up and pointed this out to her and said, `You ought to correct them!' She said, `You do it, darling.' So I am.
"She is just as chipper as she can be - went to Longfellow School. Has a sister on Cape Cod as well, whom she feels will be delighted by the book as much as she is. I had called her up to see if she wanted me to order it along with mine. I didn't even know she was from Dayton!"
Here is Isabel Pifer's story of the ride, excerpted from writer Shirley Eastman's story in the Cape Cod Times. 'Ten years after the Wright brothers - Orville and Wilbur - proved that men could make a glider fly through the air when powered by a gasoline engine, they had a fledgling aeroplane business going in Dayton. Whenever Orville Wright tested a new gadget for one of his machines - and he often did - he invited the whole town out to see the show.
'And so, on that day, all decked out in a white eyelet dress with white ribbons in her hair, 8-year-old Isabel tagged along with her father to watch the demonstration.
`When they arrived at the field, a crowd was gathered along the grassy runway as the Wright crew prepared the plane to take off. Orville, dressed as always in a spiffy dark business suit and starched white shirt, fastened his goggles and got ready to jump into the open cockpit.
``Who wants to ride with me?' he yelled.
`No one said a word.
`No one, that is, except little Isabel.
``I do,' she said.
`Orville looked over at Mr. Pifer. `Shall I take her?'
``Go ahead,' said Isabel's father.
`And that is how the great Orville Wright came to pick up little Isabel Pifer and swing her into his passenger seat for the ride of her life.
`Orville jumped in behind the controls and gunned the engine. One of his crew members ran behind the plane and pushed with all his might. The little plane shuddered, lurched and was airborne.
`The pair soared out over Dayton and swooped down over Isabel's neighborhood to point out her school and her church. Isabel, blond hair flying, took a deep breath, clutched the rim of the cockpit and peered over the side.
`Fifteen minutes later they were back on the ground. As Orville lifted Isabel out of the plane, the crowd burst into applause.'
Isabel Pifer attended the University of Denver, Ohio Wesleyan University and Boston University, earning bachelor's and master's degrees. She taught and was a college administrator and social worker.
She lived, during her 50-year career, in Colorado, Chicago, Israel, Egypt, Hong Kong, Ethiopia, India, Nepal and Boston. She retired in the early 1970s to Sandwich, where she founded the Thornton W. Burgess Society and volunteered for the Sandwich Glass Museum, the historical society and the Council on Aging. In 1996, when she stopped driving, she gave up delivering Meals on Wheels.
This story will give the Wright Research Committee new material for discussion at the next meeting.
The family of Jack Crume, 40 Colorado Drive, lived for several years at 1 Hawthorn St., next to the Wrights at number 7. Orville took Jack's father for a flight at one time, and Jack, who was about 5 at the time, went along for the flight on his father's lap.
All he remembers of the flight is that they flew over a corn field.
One of Jack's treasured possessions is the armless rocking chair which Catherine Koerner Wright used when she rocked the Wright children as infants.