Seniority/ Retired real estate broker recalls 'flighty' past
Published 4:20 pm, Tuesday, October 11, 2011
Editor's note: This is one in an occasional series of chats with local seniors about their lives, youthful aspirations, sources of pride and regret, plus a bit of wisdom to share with younger folks.
The following is an interview with Mary Jo Cornell, 87, a retired real estate broker with flighty beginnings. She flew a plane alone at 16 and volunteered to be a Women's Air Service Pilot during World War II. She later worked in the experimental helicopter unit at Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. Before selling real estate for 20 years, Cornell raised three children, one of whom designed two Special Olympics stamps for the U.S. Postal Service.
Q: Do you live in Fairfield?
A: Yes, for 56 years.
Q: Are you married?
A: Yes, for 67 years to A. William Cornell, now 94.
A: Seven plus six great grandchildren.
Q: Are you retired?
Q: What did you do when you worked full-time?
A: Sold at Fairfield County Real Estate Co. for 20 years. I went to work after the children were raised.
Q: What did you want to be when you grew up?
A: A lawyer.
Q: What are your main hobbies and interests?
Q: Do you have a favorite work of art?
A: Anything my children paint.
Q: Do you have a favorite movie?
A: When I look back, no.
Q: What music do you listen to and what is your favorite piece of music?
Q: What TV show do you watch regularly?
A: Fox News.
Q: Who do you think was the best President of the United States and why?
A: President Ronald Reagan. He got us out of a lot of trouble.
Q: If you could tell the President of the United States one thing, what would it be?
A: Put the United States first, not the United Nations.
Q: What is your greatest guilty pleasure?
A: God gave me a healthy body and I am not going to mess it up. I try not to eat to excess. When I do that, I mess up my body. That makes me feel guilty.
Q: What is your biggest pet peeve?
Q: Do you have any regrets in life?
Q: What achievements of yours are you most proud of?
A: My family. All have good spouses and and all are healthy and don't do crazy things. I am very lucky. They don't do drugs or drink to excess. I am also proud of my association with the WASPS and with duties in the Experimental Helicopter Division at Sikorsky. During one experiment I had to hand off a small package while the helicopter hovered close to the ground. The noise and the wind were terrible. My clothes were plastered against my body. My feet were on the ground when I lifted up the light package and placed it in the outstretched hands of a crewman. When I look back, I think the successful completion of my duty that day possibly was the first step that led to all the things helicopters these days can lift up and and take on while hovering. I understand helicopters can hover and lift up stuff big as a house.
Q: Best piece of advice for the younger generation?
A: Be grateful.
Q: What brings you your greatest joy?
Q: If you had a magic wand, what would you wish for?
A: A new kitchen. We just moved and the kitchen is not efficient. I need a kitchen where I can reach things without walking all around the room. That's the stupidest thing.