August 27, 2010

Trixie Ann Schubert

Posted in Inspiring Stories tagged at 10:56 pm by tiffanyannbrown

In 1965 my grandmother, Trixie Ann Schubert, died in a plane crash. She was accompanied by Joan Merriam Smith, the first woman to fly the equatorial (Amelia Earhart) route around the world, and had been planning to write her life story when their 182 Cessna suddenly malfunctioned over the little mountain town of Wrightwood, CA. Though I never met Trixie, I feel like I’ve known her my entire life thanks to journals, lectures on tape, family photos, news stories, and memories that have been passed down along the way. I came across this quote recently about grandparents, which I thought was really neat:

The history of our grandparents is remembered not with rose petals but in the laughter and tears of their children and their children’s children.  It is into us that the lives of grandparents have gone.  It is in us that their history becomes a future.

The year before she passed away, she wrote an inspiring letter to her three children that eerily foreshadowed her death. Some of the reasons she was so inspiring include the fact that she was a foreign news correspondent, aviatrix, author, lecturer, and mother of three, but more importantly, that she set time aside for the more important things in life. Click here to view her biography.

Without further ado, below is a copy of the letter she wrote to her children, just brimming with purpose, love, and intention:

Dear Monkeys Three – Patrice, Heidi, Norman:  I write this merely to emphasize what you already know – that every breath I breathe is with love for you three and with gratitude to God for having so blessed me with you.

I write, anticipating no problems on the solo flight I’m about to fly, but because I’m somewhat of a fatalist (that all happens by His permissive or positive will and that it is sufficient in life to fulfill our mission here on earth with the living prayer, “Let me be an instrument of Thy will” and nothing else matters) and consider all possible contingencies as my Cub Scout (Norman) knows, wisdom lies in being prepared in all things as much as possible.

This flight is a challenge, one with which I feel capable of coping, or I would not make it.  There is a selfish motive, too.  I want to make you as proud of me as I am of you (and this is not a false pride).  Our love must be bound by purpose, initiative, fulfillment, accomplishment and you three are well launched on that track; we are not born in the image and likeness of God to vegetate.

You have nothing in life to fear, NOTHING, while you adhere to the magnificent faith bestowed on you in Baptism.  Don’t frustrate life by trying to understand all that you KNOW by feeling and experiencing.  The mystery of faith implies that we accept some belief on faith alone; as we accept so many mundane matters because they “work” as we expect them to, even though we don’t understand how (you know – electricity, growing grass, birth, love, – yes, and pain and sorrow).

Temper the truths you hold in faith with tolerance for the beliefs of others, with integrity (don’t imitate; be yourselves above all else and only then do you radiate charm, assurance, warmth, confidence).

As a child when my Mother died, I felt life was over and it wasn’t, though it was at the same time diminished and augmented.  I felt it again when Daddy died when I was not yet adult and had hopes of his being with us as a family again.  And when Nannie died I wanted my world to end, never dreaming that she would come back to me in you three and that she never really left me.  “I will be near, helping and praying for you whenever you need me” she promised, and she’s there – helping, waiting.

Love binds – eternally, you shall discover if you haven’t already.  Obey Daddy and be as tolerant of his few foibles as he always has been of me.  He is an exceptionally wonderful man, as if you didn’t know.  My love grows for him – always a good test of marriage.  That’s enough now of maternal commandments; no one yet has improved on the original ten anyway.

With you, and loving you – ALWAYS.


On a closing note, you can click here for a link to the 1965 Ogden, UT newspaper story documenting the plane crash.



  1. Renee D said,

    Your grandma sounds like she was an amazing woman. (And she was beautiful.) I love the quote about grandparents. My grandmother had a huge impact on my life. I’d say her spirit influences my decisions and thoughts on a daily basis.

  2. Kim said,

    What an amazing legacy that your grandmother left. That is so special that your mother has that letter, many are not so fortunate to have something like this documented.

  3. Dennis P. Diekmann said,

    Good afternoon,

    Your grandmother and my mother were, as I understand it, friends back in the 50’s and perhaps before. In 1948 my mother Otillia Rose Diekmann, was diagnosed with breast cancer. She had the treatments available to her at that time and was told that she would be unable to conceive any more children. Well, I was born in 1951, the 3rd of 3 boys in our family. In 1954 the cancer returned and settled in mom’s spine and in 1956, my dad and mom decided to make a trip to Lourdes, France searching for a cure. Their journey was documented by Trixie Ann Schubert and was written up in the September, 1956 issue of St Joseph magazine.

    My mother passed away in January, 1957, 2 days after my 6th birthday. I have an original issue of that September 1956 St. Josephs magazine that I have read and re-read many many times over the years. My father always had wonderful things to say about Trixie Ann and I still remember the shock to him and, frankly, to all of us boys, when we heard of her untimely death in 1965.

    The article that was written by your grandmother has been a touchstone of sorts to me over all these decades. Much of what I know of my parents journey is from that article. Now, fast forward to the late 1990’s. My wife and I live in South Pasadena, CA and we are parisioners at Holy Family Catholic Church. The auction that year had a trip for 20 couples to go with our beloved Msgr Clement Connolly to Paris. The Msgr informed everyone that was going that they would also be visiting Lourdes. I heard about this and shared the article that your grandmother had written, and asked the Msgr t say a prayer for my mom and for your grandmother when they were there.

    One of the couples on that trip were some folks that my wife and I had become very fond of, though they are a good 20 years older than us. He and his wife began regularly visiting Lourdes as members of the Knights and Dames of Malta. In 2001 I was asked to become a member but turned it down, as I had neither the time nor the treasure to do the commitment justice.

    In 2010 I made the commitment and I am about to make my first trip to Lourdes. I go, not as a malade (a French word from which the English word malady is derived) but as a volunteer to be of service to others who, like my mother and father, come to Lourdes seeking either physical or spiritual renewal. I tell you this because I am preparing for this journey and I thought of your grandmother. With the miracle of google, your blog was seconds away.

    So, in a sense, the circle, at least for me, will be complete. I will continue to journey to Lourdes in the years ahead. You see, the actions, for good or bad, of all of us echo through time and continue to touch the lives of others. This is another legacy of your grandmothers life that I thought you would like to know……..

    • Dennis, thank you so much for taking the time to share your story and connect here. I’m so glad we were able to get in touch offline. I look forward to reading the article you referenced. Your reply really caused me to stop and think about the bigger picture and I thank you for the reminder about remembering what’s truly the most important!

  4. Mary Allen said,

    My mother (Renee Anderson Allen) also knew Trixie. They were very dear friends and I heard constantly about her in my life (mom is still alive at 92 and occasionally mentions her in conversation about the past).

    We leave our marks on this little planet for all time.

    • Mary, that is so neat! Are you by chance a friend of Dennis’ who also just left a comment on this post earlier in the week? Curious how you came across it since I haven’t written a post here in nearly 3 years now. I am certain my mother would love to have a conversation with your mom.

  5. fasfric said,


    I knew Trixie – and your Grandfather also.

    My former wife, Pat, and I would often visit your grandparents at their home in LA. We knew your Mom because of my wife’s involvement in the 99’s, the International Organization of Women Pilots, of which your Grandmother was a very active member.

    Had great convivial dinners at your Grandmother’s on a number of occasions, too. She was the kind of character one never forgets, filled with joy, intelligence and good wit. She had quite an impressively uplifting sort of personality, always upbeat. Certainly a talented writer, she was a most memorable lady – and her devotion to your Grandfather quite obvious.

    We were actually planning on another visit (we lived in Phoenix, AZ at the time), one that was never realized because of her untimely departure in that terrible airplane crash in the mountains with Joan Smith, who we also knew quite well. We did visit your Grandfather a number of times after the tragedy, and he seemed to very seriously labor over the immense loss in her untimely death. He truly seemed almost lost without her by his side. She was such a completely “alive” sort of person that it was extremely hard to imagine that she was permanently out of all our lives.

    At the time, my wife was Governor of the SW Section of the 99’s, so we were in the LA area quite regularly. On all our subsequent trips, we never failed to sense a wave of despondency at not being able to once again enjoy your Grandmother’s great spirit and enthusiasm for life. She was truly the kind of great soul it is always a privilege to know. Again, genuinely unforgettable in every sense of the word. Her good friend, with whom she perished, Joan Smith, was a different sort of person, but they shared much in common besides just their love of flying.

    I no longer live in either Phoenix or in California (moved there many, many years later), but down in SW New Mexico, where am involved in an aviation history project, which brought your Grandmother’s and Joan’s legacy very much back to mind. Of course we also knew Morgan, Patrice and Heidi, too, since they were very lively children and always around when we were visiting the Schubert’s. I’m curious which of them is your own parent?

    Amazing how time speeds by, isn’t it? Of course my visualization of the Schubert children is frozen in time, so I can only picture them as just that, children, but then my own children are now very much adults, too, and only one of them had even been born, yet, when your Grandmother died. Somewhere in my ancient records I probably still have the moving tribute your Grandfather wrote about his bride the Christmas after Trixie passed on.

    Am sure, as she was of her own three children, Trixie would be very proud and pleased that you have published her memory on the then non-existent but now ubiquitous Internet. You are truly the descendent of a remarkable woman!


    ric lambart, Columbus, NM
    (where I’m a Trustee)

    • Ric – Thank you so much for taking the time to stop by and write such a nice response! It’s really wonderful to hear all of these things. I will reach out to you via email. I’m sure my mom (Heidi) would love to see the tribute you refer to from the Christmas following her plane accident. ~Tiffany

  6. Kevin Page said,

    Dear Tiffany,

    Your Grandmother, Joan Merriam and the Saturday Eveniging Post article ” I flew around the world alone” by Joan Merriam that your Grandmother helped Joan write, Aztec Aircraft at Long Beach Airport and the other woman that were your grandmothers contemperaries are all part of early memory’s for me.

    The woman that your Grandmother associated with and was indeed one of, were a unique breed of women of adventure.
    It is ironic that the story of Joan’s incredible life’s ambition inspired by Amelia Earhart was accomplished at such a young age and then the important story never properly told, we not only lost Joan, we lost your Grandmother, the one person that could have writen the story properly.

    I have spent many nights in the past years thinking about this subject and wondering how the story of Joan should be told to the world today.

    Perhaps you have a unique perspective to write the story for Joan and your Grandmother with a understanding that is absolutely fresh, dynamic and timeless.
    Your Grandmother’s letter to her children my be the missing theme that has eluded
    me, like the Indians that past down there stories to there children for there grand children and because Joan did not have children her story and memory got left behind.

    Her husband Jack must have thought about it many times but could not bring such a personal experience to be told, a kind man, officer and true gentalman.

    Give it some thought, aviation is not about airplanes, it’s about people and the adventure, passion and calling that we all have in our hearts, but few get the opportunity to pursue.

    If you need navigation for research drop me a email, I will try to give you good headings.

    With sincere personal regard,

    • Thank you for your kind words and for stopping by and leaving a note! This was a blog I had started as a school project many years ago that I don’t keep up any longer, and the neatest thing about it was the unexpected sharing of stories about my grandmother. I will send you an email …

      • Christopher said,

        Hello Tiffany,

        I and a friend of mine are researching the life of Joan Merriam Smith. We have had the good luck to speak to her husband, a lively 95 year-old man but would love to find out if you know of any notes that might still exist from your grandmother’s research into Joan’s life story. As a person who deeply appreciates history, it is wonderful to read the letter above, keeping the memory of those who are no longer present alive is one of the most important things any of us can do.

      • fasfric said,

        Christopher – Wonderful to be able to follow Tiffany’s postings about her Grandmother, Trixie Schubert, and of Trixie’s biographical work with Joan Merriam Smith. Amazing to know that Joan’s husband, Captain Jack Smith, Jr., is still going strong at 95. This Internet is almost performing miracles in how it connects people who have something very much in common, that would otherwise most likely not touch base with one another. Certainly wonderful that Tiffany set up this blog, isn’t it?

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