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Published: Saturday, 8/9/2014 - Updated: 4 months ago

Deborah Metcalf: 1924-2014; Pilot served as docent at art museum

BY JANET ROMAKER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
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Deborah Kerr Metcalf, 90, an intrepid adventurer who took off for the sky at a time when she was the only female pilot of a flying club, died July 31 at The Woodlands in Toledo where she had lived for 11 years.

A former Sylvania Township resident, she was described as a firm hand in a velvet glove, a whirlwind of motion during her let’s-get-things-done life.

Two weeks before her death — following a lengthy illness that included pneumonia last fall — she made plans to visit the Toledo Museum of Art where she was a docent for more than a decade.

Serving as a docent and in 1981 as president of the docents were among her hallmark achievements, in large part because she loved the museum. “She really felt that the museum was not just Toledo’s treasure but the nation’‍s treasure and she loved helping children,” said her daughter Elizabeth Clowery.

Mary Keune, who met Mrs. Metcalf in the 1970s when they were both docents, said her longtime friend was service oriented. “Wherever she went, she made it a better place,” noting at The Woodlands, Mrs. Metcalf started a memorial garden and a movie night. She also started a book club and a needlepoint club.

Mrs. Metcalf, who grew up in Kansas City, Mo., was an aircraft communicator for the Civil Aeronautics Administration during World War II.

Her flair for flying perhaps was sparked by James Clowery who served in the Air Force during the war and was decorated with the Distinguished Flying Cross. He had met Deborah just before he went overseas. He courted her in his letters and won her heart. On his 50th flying mission, his plane was riddled with shrapnel by enemy gunfire. On the couple’s wedding day in 1944, Deborah wore a bridal gown made of material from the parachute that saved his life.

Mr. Clowery, who was injured during the war, died in 1970. A year later, Deborah logged her first solo flight, proud to be an instrument-rated pilot.

In 1976, then married to Ted Metcalf, she urged wives to learn how to fly and, most important, how to land. “My soapbox is to have husbands encourage their wives to learn how to fly and to help,” she told The Blade at that time. Mrs. Metcalf said flying was a great hobby to share with her company-executive husband.

The Metcalfs were injured, she seriously, when a Piper Cherokee airplane crashed in a wooded area near Hickory, N.C., in 1986. The plane’‍s engine locked up, but Mrs. Metcalf, who was the pilot, shut it off before the plane crashed, preventing a fire. “She was cool as a cucumber,” Ms. Clowery said.

Very active, and very social, Mrs. Metcalf was an out-the-door-every-morning person. Makeup on, hair done, outfits accented with jewelry and scarves.

At age 80, she pursued a passion for writing, at first creating a book about her mother’s memories of life on the farm in Independence, Mo.

A member of area writing clubs, Mrs. Metcalf’‍s works included essays published in Mature Living.

She was a member of Epworth United Methodist Church for more than 50 years, and was a former president of the Epworth United Methodist Women.

In 1977, as president of the furnishings committee for the Manor House at Wildwood Metropark, she and other committee members sought donations of furniture, works of arts, and other items, including pieces for the fireplace mantels to decorate the former Stranahan mansion.

She was a past president of the Corey Woods Garden Club and a Toledo Hospital Auxiliary member.

Mrs. Metcalf is survived by her sons, Stephen Clowery and The Rev. Heng Sure; daughter, Elizabeth Clowery; stepdaughter Kathleen Fenk; stepson Christopher Metcalf; sister, Lucy Anne Haist; three grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren.

Visitation will be from 5 to 8 p.m. Aug. 22 at the Walker Funeral Home, 5155 Sylvania Ave. The family suggests tributes to the Sunset Communities Life Care Fund, Sunset Retirement Communities Development Office, 4040 Indian Rd., Toledo, Ohio 43606.

Contact Janet Romaker at: jromaker@theblade.com or 419-724-6006.



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