Alice W. Phillips, among state's first female aviators

March 04, 1994|By Fred Rasmussen | Fred Rasmussen,Sun Staff Writer

Alice W. Phillips, an aviator and one of the first women in Maryland to become a licensed pilot, died Saturday of heart failure at Manor Care Nursing Home in Tucson, Ariz. She was 78.

As a young woman, she developed a passion for aviation and after graduating with a bachelor's degree from Vassar College in 1938, she took flying lessons and earned her license that year.

"She had an instructor who got her into the Aviation Pilot's Training Program," said her husband, Lyman Phillips, a retired sales executive. "They were called the 'Leaky Tents' and were being trained to fly observation planes. Of course, when [World War II] came along, all civilian aircraft were banned from flying within 150 miles of the coast, and she wasn't able to fly."

It wasn't until 1975 when Mrs. Phillips was 59 that she returned to flying and upgraded her license to an instrument flight license.

At various times, she and her husband owned a Beechcraft Bonanza and a Mooney 201, both single-engine planes in which they crossed the country many times to visit family and friends and to fly to their vacation home in the Adirondack Mountains on St. Regis Lake in New York State.

She was born Alice Whitridge Garrett into one of Maryland's oldest families and was the daughter of Robert Garrett, an investment banker and philanthropist. She graduated from the Calvert School in 1928 and from the Roland Park Country School in 1934.

She briefly sang on a weekly radio program in Baltimore in the late 1930s. She moved to New York where she studied with an operatic coach and made her professional debut at the Lyric Theater in 1940 in the Baltimore Civic Opera Company's production of "H.M.S. Pinafore." She played the role of Hebe, appearing opposite the well-known baritone and National Broadcasting Co. radio star John Charles Thomas, who was educated in Baltimore.

In 1942, she married Mr. Phillips, an Army Air Corps officer and native of New Haven, Conn., at Old St. Paul's Episcopal Church. It was reported in The Sun "that the bride wore a veil of point lace which once belonged to Marie Antoinette," the queen who was executed in the French Revolution.

They lived in Southbury, Conn., for many years. They moved to Tucson in 1978 where Mrs. Phillips continued to sing with choirs and choruses and taught in adult education centers, preparing students for their high school equivalency exams.

A memorial service was to be held today in Tucson.

Other survivors include two sons, the Rev. Watson Lyman Phillips of Penobscot, Maine, and John Work Garrett Phillips of Madison, Conn.; a daughter, Alida V. P. Dyer of Salida, Colo.; two sisters, Ella G. Brigham of Paul Smiths, N.Y., and Katharine Garrett Bainbridge of Brooklandville; and six grandchildren.

Memorial donations may be made to The Trudeau Institute, Saranac Lake, N.Y. 12982.

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