Willmar Aviation Pioneer Inducted Into Forest of Friendship

WILLMAR, MINN. – Mary Jane Rice, cofounder of Willmar Air Service in Willmar, Minnesota, was among 21 people inducted into the International Forest of Friendship in Atchison, Kansas, June 22, 2013.

Rice joins 1,200 other honorees whose names are engraved on granite plaques and displayed on walkways throughout the wooded park. Among other inductees are Amelia Earhart, Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Sally Ride, Jimmy Doolittle, and the seven astronauts who lost their lives on the space shuttle Columbia in 2003.

Rice, and her husband, John L. Rice, started Willmar Air Service in 1946. Rice was also inducted into the Minnesota Aviation Hall of Fame in 1994. The Minnesota Chapter of the Ninety-Nines nominated Rice for the Forest of Friendship Award.

The originators of the forest envisioned “world friendship through flying.” The organization is a living memorial to the world history of aviation and aerospace, and made up of trees from all 50 states and 35 countries around the world.

Rice was nominated and sponsored by the Minnesota Chapter of the Ninety-Nines, an international organization of women pilots, of which she has been a member since 1939.

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