Friday, August 7, 2009

Aviation pioneer recognized in Warren

Committeeman Gary DiNardo presents a certificate of recognition to Carol Roberts, niece of pioneering aviator Aline Rhonie Hofheimer, whose family once owned the land that is now the municipal complex, the Elks Lodge, and the area around the Mountain Boulevard and Mount Bethel Road intersection.

Published: Aug 7th, 7:06 AM
WARREN TWP. – The 100th anniversary of the birth of Aline Rhonie Hofheimer, a pioneering female aviator with roots in Warren Township, and the contributions of Ernie Cottrill, founder and developer of the Giving Garden Project at the community garden at Wagner Farm Arboretum were celebrated with the awarding certificates of recognition at the Thursday, July 23, Township Committee meeting.

Hofheimer’s niece, Carol Roberts, accepted the certificate on behalf of her aunt who was a contemporary of Amelia Earhardt and who helped advance the world of aviation and helped show the world that women belonged in the sky, too.

Pioneering Aviator

The Hofheimer family once owned the huge swath of land that is the main business district of Warren Township. The Hofheimer estate included what is now the entire municipal complex, the property where the Elks Lodge is, the Warrenville Golf Course, and across Warrenville and Mount Bethel roads all the way down to the Bardy Farms greenhouses and fresh produce center.

The Town Hall and the Elks Lodge were once residences of members of the Hofheimer family.

Aline Rhonie Hofheimer was one of the granddaughters of the original Hofheimer family.

According to Warren history, Aline Rhonie Hoifheimer was born on Aug. 16, 1909 in York, Pa., the daughter of Arthur and Helen Milius Hofheimer. She, her parents and her siblings returned to live in Warren Township in 1912.

“She grew up on Long Acre Farms, the family’s luxurious country estate in Washington Valley, where the Pheasant Run Shopping Center is now, with her sisters,” according to the history.

She married twice, first in the late 1920s to L. Richard Bamberger, a New York stockbroker, then after her divorce in 1930, to Reginald L. Brooks in 1933. He was the nephew of Lady Astor, and an amateur aviator.

Hofheimer had learned to fly gliders, seaplanes and twin-engine craft before she was 20-years-old, and in 1930, earned her pilot’s license.

She was the first woman to fly solo from New York to Mexico in 1934.

Hofheimer earned a British flying license in 1936, worked with the Red Cross during World War II, and flew solo across the United States in 1940, raising funds for aviator canteens in England and France.

During the war, she became the fourth woman to join the Woman’s Auxiliary Flying Squadron in 1942, and in 1943, she went to England and served as the first officer in the British Air Transport Auxiliary, where she received various medals and awards.

Her solo flight to Mexico was stimulated by her other passion, painting. According to news reports at the time, she did it “because she wanted to talk murals with Diego Rivera.”

She studied for several months with Rivera, learning the art of fresco painting, and as a young teen, she had taken lessons from noted American painter, John Sloan.

Hofheimer’s most noted work is a fresco mural that measures 106 feet by 12.5 feet, which was painted on the north wall of Hanger F at Roosevelt Field, Long Island. That is the same airport from which Charles Lindbergh left on his historic solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean.

The fresco depicts 500 air notables, including many of the early female aviators, 200 lesser-known personalities, and 268 planes and hangers from the pre-Lindbergh era of American aviation.

In 1960, the hanger was demolished along with the Roosevelt Field airport to make way for the Roosevelt Field shopping mall. Hofheimer spent $20,000 of her own money to have the mural removed, and placed in storage.

Susan Loricchio of the North Jersey chapter of The Ninety-Nines, the international organization of women pilots, and Esta-Ann Schapiro of Warren Township, wife of noted Warren Township author Jack Elliott, have tracked the history of Hofheimer’s fresco, which remains in storage. They have been keen to see that the fresco, by an historic female aviator about historic female aviation pioneers, be properly displayed.

Loricchio said that the fresco is currently stored at Vaughn College of Aeronautics, Queens, not far from Laguardia Airport.

After the war, Hofheimer co-founded the Luscombe Airplane Company, Kansas City, Mo., and served as president and chairman of the board at Allison Radar Corporation.

She died in Palm Beach, Fla., on Jan. 7, 1963.


All proceeds from the luncheon will be donated back to the causes of the award winners.

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