Wednesday, April 23, 2014 5:18 AM
Vera Foster Rollo
Published on: Wednesday, February 17, 2010
Vera Foster Rollo, 85, of Dunwoody, Died Feb. 3, 2010.
Rollo lived in Lanham for 50 years and was president of Maryland Historical Press and active in the Prince George’s Historical Society, the Prince George’s Artists Association, Lanham United Methodist Church and the College Park Aviation Museum.
Call Vera Foster Rollo a pioneer and she’d laugh modestly, holding up her hand as if to ward off any more of your ill-conceived notions. But one glance into this remarkable woman’s past and it’s obvious she was a true groundbreaker.
Long before Ms. Magazine was popular reading for independent female types and women’s liberation was a distant thought, Rollo was boldly going where even most men didn’t dare – way up high into the wild blue yonder in very small planes.
She began flying in 1943 as a teenager, taking her first lessons in Florida while living in a girl’s home where her mother Hilda was employed. Those long hot summers without air conditioning left lots of time wishing for relief, which Vera actively began seeking in the sky.
By the time she turned 19, she had a flight instructor’s certificate and was making $3 per hour teaching students (mostly male) how to fly.
She worked for years in West Palm Beach Florida during the winter and the Washington, D.C. area in the summer. She organized and taught many “Ground Schools” where aspiring private pilots learned about aviation and flying in preparation for earning their Private Pilots License.
It was in these ground school classes that she met her first husband Eric Foster, father of her two children Michael and Sally, and later her second husband Anthony Rollo.
Over her 50+ year aviation career she went on to log more than 4,000 hours, flying single and multiengine aircraft, making charter flights, instructing on land and sea, flying in air shows and serving as a check pilot and captain in the Maryland Civil Air Patrol through the 1990s.
But Vera’s accomplishments didn’t stop there. Not satisfied to be part of such a select sorority (only six percent of women flew then, a statistic that has barely changed to this day), she combined her love of flying with history and began writing for a national aviation magazine in Washington, D.C. Many of her articles were also published in the leading trade publications of the day.
While in elementary school, her son, Michael came home one day and told her the students didn’t have a Maryland history book, which gave Vera the idea to write this missing text, thus launching her writing and publishing career.
In 1964, she founded a publishing company, Maryland Historical Press, that produced this first student history textbook, “Your Maryland.”
She went on to write and/or publish many Maryland-related texts (“Maryland Today: A Geography,” “Everyday Life in Colonial Maryland,” “Maryland Past & Present,” “First People of Maryland,” “Indians of the Tidewater,” “Henry Hartford – The Last Lord Baltimore,” “Maryland A to Z: Maryland Biographical Sketches”); books on Americana, (“The American Flag,” “Who is Uncle Sam,” “Presidents and their Pets,” “American Holidays and Special Days,” “Bill Clinton – Eyes on the Future,” “Archeology!”, and “American Religions and Philosophies”); and books about the love of her life – flying (“Burt Rutan: Reinventing the Airplane,” “The Around the Rim Flight,” “Aviation Law” and “Aviation Insurance”).
Many of these books are still available through Maryland Historical Press, which she ran out of her home in Dunwoody, Ga.
As if all that wasn’t enough, Vera decided she needed to boost her credentials for writing, so she began attending the University of Maryland in her 40s, where she went on to earn a B.A. and M.A. in American history, followed by earning a Ph.D. at age 60 in education development with a dissertation on aviation programs in U.S. postsecondary schools.
After 50 years in Seabrook, Vera relocated to Dunwoody, Ga., in 2004 to be near her daughter, Sally Foster. Her son Michael Foster lives in Petaluma, Ca.
Definitely not one to boast, when asked about her most memorable flying moment, Vera recalls an air show she attended with a friend. “I hopped in my plane ready to show off. I was trying some fancy tricks at low altitude and went into a stall. The only thing I could see was the pavement rushing up at me. Luckily I pulled up just in time and when I landed, my friend ran up to me and said, ‘That was great! Can you do it again?!’
Vera Rollo can certainly be considered a rare bird, even in today’s world of super-achieving women.
Spouse(s): Anthony L. Rollo (divorced) and Eric Foster (deceased); son, Michael J. Foster of Petaluma, Calif.; daughter, Sally M. Foster of Dunwoody, Ga.; grandchildren, Jessica L. Foster of Santa Rosa, Calif.; Vera F. Becker of Cotati, Calif.; great-grandchildren, Kaylie M. Foster of Cotati, Calif.; Mason J. Becker of Cotati, Calif.; Tessa R. Faulkner of Santa Rosa; Tyler M. Faulkner of Santa Rosa, Calif. Vera was preceded in death by her parents, Hilda and Joseph Prevette, brothers, Pressley Blevins, Joseph Prevette, James Robert Prevette, sister, Sara Elizabeth Cowan. A memorial service was held Saturday, Feb. 6, at Kingswood United Methodist Church with Rev. Charles Savage officiating.
For her friends in Maryland, a memorial service will be held in April to celebrate the life of this wonderful, loving, successful and overall incredible woman. For details, please contact Sally Foster at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to Hospice Atlanta or Caring Bridge.org. H.M. Patterson & Son, Oglethorpe Hill Chapel, 4550 Peachtree Road, NE, Atlanta, GA 30319.