LAGUNA NIGUEL, CA Mary Reineberg Burchard was a test pilot with the Women Air Force Service Pilots (WASP) of WWII, a Congressional Gold Medal recipient, a proud veteran, doctor, and beloved mother, and friend. The call to take her last flight came on January 28, 2012, surrounded by her children at Aegis Living of Laguna Niguel, Calif. She was 95. Mary was born in 1916 in York. She was the oldest child of a well-known York shoe store family, Jacob and Salome Reineberg, and the sister of Jacob C. Reineberg and Sister Clare Reineberg, ASC. Upon graduation from St. Mary's High School, Mary was among the first women to study at Temple University's School of Surgical Podiatry in Philadelphia. She graduated at 21 as a surgeon-podiatrist, being given the highest honor ever awarded a woman in clinical proficiency. Mary returned to York to open her practice on E. Market Street. While she worked hard as a young doctor, her childhood dream of flying never went away. During the early part of World War II, Mary got her pilot's license through the national defense program where she and nine male pilots made up the Civil Air Patrol York Squadron 301. As the war raged on, Mary became one of only 1176 to be part of the visionary Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP). Though considered civilian pilots, the WASP did all of the domestic military aviation work during the war. Based in Marana, Ariz., Mary was a test pilot, putting aircraft through stress maneuvers to make sure they were safe for the men pilots to fly. The WASP flew over 60 million air miles for the military. They were deactivated in December 1944 and were given full military recognition and honors in 1978. In March 2010, Mary and the WASP pilots were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal. After the WASP, Mary joined the American Red Cross. She was sent to southern Italy where she spent 18 months as Director of Social Activities for American troops waiting to go home. This was a perfect fit for Mary who was gregarious, enterprising, fun-loving, and a natural organizer. She loved Italy, loved the work, and was proud she could help until the war ended. She met her future husband, Jack McDargh, on the troop ship coming home. They married at St. Mary's in York, moved to Denver, Colo., and had three children. Over the years, the family moved several times, with Fort Lauderdale, Fla., being the place Mary called home for 46 years. Though those bigger-than-life adventures gave way to joys and difficulties of family life, her children say Mary taught them all those lessons and values that defined her early years. "Our mom gave us her love of adventure and travel. She modeled for us courage, resiliency, and calm in the face of difficulties. Mom passed along a deep belief in service to our country, to God, community, and family. She delighted in the beauty of a flower, a poem, a joke, a good meal and musiclots of singing and piano playing. We'll remember her broad smile, her twinkling blue eyes, and how her laughter burst up from deep inside. Mom took every opportunity until her last breath to let us know she loved us." Mary was preceded in death by her parents, Jacob and Salome Reineberg, and her brother, Jacob C. Reineberg of York. She is survived by her sister, Sr. Clare Reineberg ASC of Columbia, Pa.; her children, Dr. John McDargh of Boston, Mass., Eileen McDargh Elvins of Dana Point, Calif., and Susan Mullins of Los Angeles, Calif.; loving sons-in-law; five grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren. A Memorial Mass will be held at 1 p.m. on May 4 at St. Mary's Church, 309 S. George St., York, with the Rev. Robert M. Gillelan, Jr. as the celebrant. Burial will follow in St. Mary's Cemetery with full military honors provided by the York County Veterans Honor Guard. In honor of Mary, donations could be given to The National WASP-WWII Museum, P.O. Box 456, Sweetwater, TX 79556; or to help today's severely injured soldiers "The Wounded Warrior Project", 4899 Belfort Road, Suite 300, Jacksonville, FL 32256. Arrangements are by the John W. Keffer Funeral Homes and Crematory, Inc. 902 Mt. Rose Ave., York. KefferFH.com
Published by York Daily Record on Apr. 27, 2012.