Bernice Lois White

Bernice Lois White, died of heart failure and other complications at 12:30 p.m., Sunday, Aug. 1, 2004 at the Care Center in Bentley Village, Naples, Fla.

She leaves her husband, Edward K. White; daughters, Judith Schneider of Cape Coral, Fla., and Beverly Perkins of Andover, Mass.; a son, Edward White III of Franklin, Tenn.; seven grandchildren; and five great - grandchildren.

Born and raised in Belmont, Mass., she graduated from Lesley College. The first two years of her teaching career were spent in a one room school house teaching seven grades. It was located on Chebeague Island in Casco Bay. It provided central heating from a pot-bellied stove, which was also her responsibility.

She was married in 1940 to Edward White and promptly joined him in a civilian pilot training program and advanced to a private pilots rating. She was said to have been the first woman in Maine to attain that distinction. World War II took her husband into Navy flying as an instructor, and she joined him at his base in Peru , Ind. along with their first child.

Following the war, Bernice and Ed, with by now three children, settled in Wayland, Mass., where they resided for 29 years. Here, she once again took up teaching, this time to dyslectics, a relatively new field. In 1977, she and her husband retired to Punta Gorda, Fla., later moving into Bentley Village, Naples, Fla. in June 2000.

A memorial service will be held at the church on Chebeague Island on Sunday, Aug. 29, at 1 p.m.

In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to:

Chebeague Methodist Church

Chebeague Island, Maine 04017

Bernice White, 88, solo-flying pioneer in Maine, devoted teacher

Bernice White, who in 1941 became the first woman in Maine to fly solo in the Civilian Pilot Training Program at Portland's airport, died Sunday at age 88.

When Mrs. White was 25 and newly married, her husband, Edward, encouraged her to enter the pilot program with him. An estimated 150 people completed the course, and Mrs. White was the highest-ranking woman.

In the summer of 1940, she completed the first ground school course taught by the federal Civilian Aviation Administration. The following January she took over the controls with the help of her instructor, Philip McCracken, and had flying lessons for two weeks, practicing take-offs, forced landings, stalls and tailspins. She had nine hours of that instruction before becoming the first woman to solo.

Just before her solo flight, her husband stood behind the hangar and peeked around the corner to watch her get ready. She did two good landings, and the instructor got out. Then, she taxied back, turned and took off by herself.

"I thought she did great," her husband said. "When she went up, I ran to the other side of the hangar and ran right into her father, who was peeking around the corner watching her. I was darn proud of her. When she landed, she had a big grin on her face. She knew she did a good job."

Mrs. White grew up in Belmont, Mass., and graduated from Lesley College. A lifelong summer resident of Chebeague Island, the former Bernice McLellan took a teaching course at Bates College, where she met an old high school classmate, Edward White. They married in 1940 and celebrated their 64th wedding anniversary in June.

After raising three children, Mrs. White resumed her teaching career, which included a stint at a one-room schoolhouse on Chebeague.

After World War II, Mrs. White and her husband moved to Wayland, Mass., where they lived for 29 years. She taught at Wayland High School and worked with students who were dyslexic.

"She loved teaching," her husband said. "The kids needed such help, but they were so smart. That's what burned her up. All they had was a little confusion in their brain."

Mrs. White retired in 1977 and wintered in Punta Gorda, Fla. Her husband renewed his pilot licenses and flew her throughout the Bahamas and the British Virgin Islands.

"It was great fun for the both of us," he said. "To have had the opportunity to do that was a tremendous freedom."

- Melanie Creamer