Mary Louise Van Velzer, 89, a part-time resident of Tehachapi and full-time resident of Huntington Beach, passed away peacefully Wednesday, April 5, 2017 at Rowntree Gardens Senior Living Community in Stanton, Calif. She leaves Vincent, her loving husband of nearly 60 years, as well as three sons, seven grandchildren, 12 great-grandchildren and many longtime friends.
Mary was born Aug. 22, 1927 in Whittier, Calif. She was the only child of Harold and Elizabeth Karnes, and a graduate of Whittier High School. Mary retired in 1986 after spending more than 30 years as an administrative secretary in the public schools and in various corporate environments.
Mary had been a fixture of the Old West Ranch community since 1964. She was one of the original directors of the Old West Ranch Property Owners Association, which incorporated two years later. Mary served in various association positions for most of the following two decades as she and her family built their beloved mountain retreat. Over the years, Mary regaled in telling stories of picnics in the wildflower-clad Tehachapi Mountains, cataloguing the wildlife and plant life that surrounded her, catching lizards with fishing poles, and of leisurely excursions on her steadfast Honda 90 to visit neighbors.
As a licensed pilot and devoted member of the Orange County chapter of the Ninety-Nines, Mary hosted numerous apple-harvest fly-ins. These popular events afforded her numerous opportunities to share her love of Tehachapi’s congenial atmosphere with those who shared her passion for flying. Mary carried her aptitude for leadership with her to the Ninety-Nines, becoming president of the Orange County chapter from 1992 through 1994. In 2006, she was nominated Pilot of the Year. June 2015 saw Mary and husband Vincent receive the Super Star Award as "The Flying Couple of the Century."
Mary’s departure from this life leaves a void in the hearts of many. From mother, wife and neighbor to “Ranch Mom” and “Pilot of the year,” Mary walked a great many paths through life, often bringing together diverse groups of people who otherwise would have never met. Her generous spirit, abiding sense of adventure, enduring optimism, easy humor and love of family and friends all speak to “a life well lived.”
A memorial service was held at the Rowntree Gardens Chapel at 10 am, Friday, April 7.