At 101, Alaskan aviatrix reflects on ‘best and happiest’ days of her career

Family reached out after reading Empire article

Kalman Markoe, center, with Hal Dorin and Max Fox in Corvallis, Oregon, in 1957. Markoe and his friends learned to fly helicopters from Nancy Livingston Stratford a pioneering woman helicopter pilot who would later live and fly in Juneau in the 1960’s and 70’s. (Courtesy Photo / Cori Scherer)

Kalman Markoe, center, with Hal Dorin and Max Fox in Corvallis, Oregon, in 1957. Markoe and his friends learned to fly helicopters from Nancy Livingston Stratford a pioneering woman helicopter pilot who would later live and fly in Juneau in the 1960’s and 70’s. (Courtesy Photo / Cori Scherer)

She couldn’t remember them by name, but Nancy Livingston Stratford certainly remembers teaching her all-male cohort of students how to fly back in 1957. One of those students recently reconnected with Stratford sending her some old photographs of their time together 60 years ago.

Last year the Empire ran an article about a former Juneau aviatrix, Nancy Livingston Stratford, turning 100 years old.

[Juneau’s 1st woman helicopter pilot turns 100]

Since that time the paper received multiple requests asking to get in touch with Stratford, mostly from other news organizations wanting to tell her story. But recently, the Empire received an email from the granddaughter of a man Stratford taught to fly helicopters in Corvallis, Oregon, in 1957.

Back then, three pilots — Max Fox, Hal Dorin and Kalman Markoe — convinced the Veteran’s Administration to pay for a helicopter training course using money from the GI Bill. The instructor they found was Stratford, the first woman on the West Coast and the fourth woman in the world to receive a rating as a helicopter pilot.

Nancy Livingston Stratford with the group of men she taught to fly in Corvallis, Oregon, in 1957. Stratford moved to Juneau in 1960, opening one of the first local helicopter companies. (Courtesy Photo / Cori Scherer)

Nancy Livingston Stratford with the group of men she taught to fly in Corvallis, Oregon, in 1957. Stratford moved to Juneau in 1960, opening one of the first local helicopter companies. (Courtesy Photo / Cori Scherer)

At the time Stratford was living in Oregon working as a commercial helicopter pilot, but in 1960 she and then-husband Arlo Livingston moved to Juneau and founded Livingston Copters at the location on the Douglas Highway where NorthStar Helicopters is now. In 1963, Stratford flew Sir Edmund Hilary, one of the first men to successfully summit Mount Everest, to the Mendenhall Glacier.

Several weeks ago, Markoe’s granddaughter Cori Scherer reached out to the Empire trying to get in touch with Stratford. Markoe had bought Stratford’s book, “Contact! Britain!” about her service during WWII, and had some old photos he wanted to pass on to her. A quick web search led them to the Empire’s article.

Stratford is still alive, living in Carlsbad, California, and though at 101-year-old she’s completely deaf, she’s still an active letter-writer according to her niece Margaret Miller. Markoe was sure Stratford would remember him, Scherer said in an email, because at the time he had a Doberman named Max who used to ride with them on flights and who Stratford was very fond of.

Kalman Markoe with his dog, Max. Markoe and his friends were taught to fly helicopters by Nancy Livingston Stratford, a former Juneau helicopter pilot and one of the first women in the world to fly helicopters commercially. (Courtesy Photo / Cori Scherer)

Kalman Markoe with his dog, Max. Markoe and his friends were taught to fly helicopters by Nancy Livingston Stratford, a former Juneau helicopter pilot and one of the first women in the world to fly helicopters commercially. (Courtesy Photo / Cori Scherer)

Stratford remembered the men, but not by name, she said in an email provided to the Empire by Scherer.

“I so enjoyed instructing those lads at that time. They were good guys!!!!,” Stratford wrote. “Yes, time has passed, but I think instructing during that time was the best and happiest of my career. You know how excited and happy the guys were to finally solo——but you might not realize how happy we instructors were to see our students solo and eventually earn their licenses.”

Nancy Livingston Stratford stands with one of the pilots she was training to fly in 1957. Stratford, one of the first women in the world to fly helicopters commercially, would later move to Juneau where she and her husband started one of the first local helicopter companies. (Courtesy Photo / Cori Scherer)

Nancy Livingston Stratford stands with one of the pilots she was training to fly in 1957. Stratford, one of the first women in the world to fly helicopters commercially, would later move to Juneau where she and her husband started one of the first local helicopter companies. (Courtesy Photo / Cori Scherer)

Stratford was the best teacher Markoe ever had and helped him tremendously, according to his granddaughter. Scherer said Markoe and was never able to capitalize on his pilot’s licenses but had a career as an engineer and has been married for over 60 years.

“Good memories teaching lads (and lassies) how to manipulate the airplane’s controls. And I always enjoyed being up in the air, looking down from 1-2000 feet onto beautiful areas of earth!!….I was so fortunate,” Stratford wrote in her email to Markoe, which she signed, “ye oldie Nancy, @101.”

A screen shot of Nancy Livingston Stratford’s email to Cori Scherer, granddaughter of Kalman Markoe whom she taught to fly in 1957. Markoe found the Empire’s article on Stratford and reached out to the paper trying to get in contact with Stratford to share some old photographs. (Screenshot)

A screen shot of Nancy Livingston Stratford’s email to Cori Scherer, granddaughter of Kalman Markoe whom she taught to fly in 1957. Markoe found the Empire’s article on Stratford and reached out to the paper trying to get in contact with Stratford to share some old photographs. (Screenshot)

• Contact reporter Peter Segall at psegall@juneauempire.com. Follow him at @SegallJnuEmpire.

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