Elinor Smith Sullivan, 98, one of the world's earliest and most renowned female pilots, died of kidney failure at Palo Alto's Lytton Gardens March 19.
She was born in New York, N.Y., and grew up in Long Island, N.Y. She took her first flight, as a passenger, at age 6 and began taking flying lessons at age 10.
In 1927, at age 16, she became the youngest licensed pilot on record in the world and completed daring tricks such as flying under New York City bridges, along with setting endurance, speed and altitude records, according to a report in the Washington Post.
"She was known for the records she broke and her showmanship. She did a lot of daring things," International Organization of Women Pilots historian and Menlo Park resident Verna West said.
In 1930 she was named female pilot of the year by fellow pilots, over rival Amelia Earhart.
"Some say Amelia Earhart got all the credit and she (Smith) did all the work," West said, of Smith's comparatively lesser-known achievements.
"She was an amazing woman, with everything she'd done at such a young age," daughter Kathleen Worden said.
Smith married Patrick Henry Sullivan II in 1933 and retired from flying to focus on raising her family. After her husband's death in 1956, she resumed her flying career and took her last flight in 2001.
Twenty-five years ago she moved to the Bay Area to be near her son and a close friend. As her health began to decline, she moved into Lytton Gardens nursing home a few years ago.
"Lytton Gardens was just wonderful," Worden said.
"She was happy here. It was just her second home," Lytton Gardens nurse Mildred Caronan said.
"She was a very nice lady."
She is survived by her children, Patrick Sullivan III of Santa Cruz, Patricia Sullivan of New York, N.Y., Kathleen Worden of Grand Junction, Colo., and Pamela Sullivan of Glen Cove, N.Y.; five grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.
A memorial service is being planned for June, to be held in New York, Worden said.
Editorial Intern Martin Sanchez contributed to this report.