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Patricia W. Malone

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POWDER SPRINGS: Pat Malone, Delta's 'Mother' took great pride in 'her pilots'


Her pilots called her "Mother Malone," and she called them "my little darlings."

It's been 14 years since Pat Malone retired as Delta Air Lines' manager of certification compliance after three decades on the job. But she remains an invisible co-pilot on many of its flights.

Some of those who trained with her still hear Mrs. Malone's deep, raspy voice beside them, reminding them of the rules and regulations.

When she joined Delta in 1972, no one would have predicted she'd become such a beloved figure there. She was asked to create its operations specifications curriculum, but she faced two obstacles: a dull, dry subject matter and a largely male audience. She soared over any low expectations of her.

How did she do it?

"She just started talking. That's all it took," said her daughter Patricia M. Perry of Kennesaw. "She took the most boring, mundane subject in flying and made it interesting."

The memorial service for Patricia W. Malone is 1 p.m. today at First United Lutheran Church in Kennesaw. Mrs. Malone, 84, of Powder Springs died Tuesday at WellStar Kennestone Hospital of complications from a July 27 car accident. The body was cremated.

The Massachusetts native enlisted during World War II as a training instructor in the U.S. Navy. After the war, she served as a civilian instructor for the U.S. Air Force and went on to train pilots for major airlines.

She moved to Delta and taught instrument flying and Federal Aviation Administration compliance classes. Before long, she won skeptical pilots over with her wisecracks, her quick smile and her commanding 6-foot frame.

"The reason she earned the 'Mother' title is because she was more than just an instructor," her daughter said. "She was all about education. I don't think the subject matter made a difference. She just loved to teach."

Her colleague Chuck Schramek of Stockbridge began teaching Delta's rules and regulations classes under her tutelage. He quickly learned why she was a company legend.

The first time he met her, she asked, "And who the hell are you, Sweetie?"

"That kind of started the bond with her," he said.

With all the places it flies now and the regulations behind that expansion, "she was the one blazing all these trails for Delta Air Lines," Mr. Schramek said.

For the rest of her life, Mrs. Malone continued to refer to "my pilots." She liked to tell people, "Every white hair on my head is a stripe on some pilot's sleeve somewhere in the world."

She devoted much of her retirement years to volunteer work. As past president of the American Business Women's Association, she focused on mentoring other women.

In a 1987 Atlanta Journal-Constitution article, Mrs. Malone acknowledged the emotional support of her second husband, the late Peter James Malone Jr.

"Basically, I agree with the saying that women today need wives, not husbands," she said. "And women need to be recognized for what they do, not told that 'she's doing OK --- for a woman.' "

"She didn't have that 'I'm good and I know it attitude,' " her daughter said. "If she was helping somebody, that was enough. It could be a woman who was trying to understand why her husband was a jerk or a man who was learning to fly. As long as she was helping somebody, she was a happy human."

Survivors include two other daughters, Alison D. Romig of Weymouth, Mass., and Peggy L. Nicholson of Powder Springs; three sisters, Susan Fekete of Cape Coral, Fla., Jackie Bigelow of Westwood, Mass., and Robin di Campi of Durham, N.H; nine grandchildren; and one great-grandson.

© 2008 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Aug. 16, 2008
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