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Marion Hart; Sailor, Pilot Traveled Worldwide

July 05, 1990|MYRNA OLIVER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Marion Rice Hart, who sailed a 72-foot ketch around the world and flew solo across the Atlantic seven times between the ages of 74 and 83, has died. She was 98.

Mrs. Hart, who spent most of her life in Washington and New York City, lived her final years in Berkeley. She died Monday of pneumonia at Alta Bates Hospital.

One of six children, Mrs. Hart was born in London while her American parents were traveling. Her father was Isaac Leopold Rice, financier, musician, lawyer, inventor and president of several companies, including the one that built the U.S. Navy's first submarine.

In 1913, Mrs. Hart became the first woman to graduate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in chemical engineering. She obtained a master's degree in geology from Columbia University.

Mrs. Hart began her around-the-world sailing adventure in 1936 when she was working as a sculptor in Avignon, France. When the wanderlust struck, she bought a 72-foot ketch and spent three years circumnavigating the globe. After firing a succession of incompetent skippers, she took over the job and completed most of the trip alone.

A ham radio operator, Mrs. Hart served in the Army Signal Corps during World War II.

She began flying in 1946 at the age of 54, first in gliders, and then in powered planes.

She made her first Atlantic crossing with a co-pilot in 1953, and her first solo trip in 1966 at the age of 74.

"I didn't tell my family before takeoff," she told reporters on arrival in London. "I didn't want any arguments about whether I should go."

In addition to her seven solo Atlantic crossings, Mrs. Hart flew all over the United States, Europe, Asia, Africa and South America. She logged more than 5,000 hours and flew alone until she was 87.

In 1976, she received the annual Harmon International Trophy "for her consistently outstanding performance as a private pilot operating small aircraft on a global scale."

Mrs. Hart chronicled her adventures in several articles for sports magazines and three books, "Who Called that Lady a Skipper" in 1938, "How to Navigate Today" in 1940, and "I Fly as I Please" in 1953.

She was married for seven years to Arthur Hart, a mining engineer. The marriage ended in divorce.

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