The last mention of Gertrude in The Seattle Times was a 1971 story retelling her heroism.
Gertrude Hartman landed in the national spotlight when she rescued fellow aviator Eddie Griffin from a plane crash.
A pioneering pilot whose first solo flight was in 1928, she became the only woman on the Pacific Coast allowed to pilot land and sea planes.
Her name has faded from memory, but her adventures are the stuff of a Hollywood blockbuster.
In 1971, Seattle Times reporter Bob Miller recalled her heroism.
On April 30, 1931, she was flying from Boeing Field to Tacoma with Griffin in a open-cockpit, two-seat biplane named “Gypsy Moth.”
“We circled the field and headed for Tacoma. About 10 miles down the valley, near Kent, our motor sputtered and we began to look for a place to set her down,” Hartman told Miller. “In a couple of minutes we were forced to land in a small field. We found out later the trouble was caused by water in the gas.”
After a hard landing they tested the motor and continued on their journey. It took them four tries to get out of the cow pasture.
Finally, they got 500 feet off the ground. Just then, the motor gave out and the plane crashed into a barn.
“I squeezed out of the wreckage by pushing shingles, boards and whatever else was on my head. I asked Eddie if he was all right, but he just grunted. I clicked off the switches and pulled Eddie’s head back. He had passed out.”
She jumped to the ground, but fuel was spilling on Griffin — and on the plane’s hot exhaust pipe.
She climbed back up and got him out just before flames engulfed the plane.
After the pair escaped the barn, Hartman saw a woman carrying a baby and running toward the structure, believing her husband was inside.
Hartman kept her from going in. The barn exploded.
Luckily, the husband had jumped out of the building earlier.
Firefighters arrived, but Hartman turned down assistance and, with a broken arm, she drove to her mother’s house about 10 miles away.
She was recommended for the Carnegie Medal for heroism, and in June was invited to join President Hoover in the rededication ceremony of Abraham Lincoln’s tomb in Springfield, Ill.
Despite these events, her first mention in The Seattle Times was in a December 1931 story about “Seattle girl flyers.” She was the president of the Women’s Aeronautics Association’s Seattle chapter at the time, and one of the first female members of the National Aeronautic Association.
Miller, in 1971, reported that Hartman left Washington in 1936 to live in Palm Springs, Calif., where she ran a delicatessen. In the 1940s, she returned to the Northwest to work in the motel business before retiring in Lacey, Thurston County.
That’s where the trail runs cold, and we don’t know what happened to Hartman after that.