Rosemary Mariner, the first woman to fly a tactical fighter jet, has lost her battle with ovarian cancer at the age of 65.
Mariner, who would eventually attain the rank of captain, was only 21 years old when she earned the honor, reported NBC News.
Having earned her private pilot’s license at 17, she graduated from Purdue University with an aeronautics degree two years later and was a member of the inaugural female class to earn Navy wings in 1973.
“She shaped generations of people with that confidence in them and helping them find their patch,” explained historian Katherine Sharp Landdeck. “She was a badass pilot, too. Landing on carriers? That’s pretty badass. You’re not just landing a jet. You’re landing a jet on a runway that’s rising up and down in the seas, and I think as a woman doing it, you’ve got everybody on deck watching. Very cool under pressure.”
Despite her petite stature, Mariner was determined to become a Navy flier, said classmate Joellen Drag Oslund, the Navy’s first female helicopter pilot.
“Right from the get-go, Rosemary was a lot of grit and determination wrapped up in in a small package,” recalled Oslund. “She just had this vision and this mission, and nothing was going to deter her from accomplishing that.”
Mariner’s husband, retired Navy Cmdr. Tommy Mariner, claimed she never thought of herself as a trailblazer but was proud that she helped create opportunities for women in the armed services.
“She considered people — not men and women,” said Mariner. “From a standpoint of getting the job done, and the way you’re treated in the world, she felt that people ought to be treated the same.”