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Geneva Schow


Geneva Schow's father, Martin Schow, rebuilt a broken-down airplane near Regent, North Dakota, during the 1920s. Soaring through the North Dakota skies with her father gave young Geneva her first taste of flight. The plane, dubbed "Sakakawea" by her father, was also Geneva's first piloting experience as a teenager during the 1930s.

After graduating high school in 1942, Geneva attended nursing school for a year, but she was still a pilot at heart. Geneva switched schools and enrolled in pilot training at Sax Aviation in Dickinson. She earned her private pilot's license in 1945 and returned home to help her father run a private airstrip near Fort Clark, North Dakota. She joined Amelia Earhart's women's pilot group, the Ninety-Nines. She flew in several "Powder Puff Derby" races spo nsored by the Ninety-Nines, then became an advocate for North Dakota pilots. She traveled the state training new pilots and encouraging communities to build airports. In November 1946, Geneva began publishing the "Dakota Flyer," a newspaper called "The Voice of Dakota Aviation." This was the first aviation newspaper in the Dakotas, and Geneva used it to further promote air travel in the northern plains.

On this date in 1948 the Bismarck Tribune published the marriage announcement of Geneva Schow and Todd Oleson. The couple exchanged their vows on the same date Geneva's parents were married twenty-five years earlier. Todd Oleson had been a flight instructor with the Army Air Corps during World War II, and was a commercial pilot out of Lemmon, South Dakota.

Geneva sold her share of the Dakota Flyer newspaper and moved with her husband to Lemmon, where Todd operated the Lemmon Airport. The couple moved back to North Dakota when they purchased Dickinson Air Service in 1961. Sadly, tragedy struck the following year. Todd Oleson was killed in a crash while spraying crops on June 10th, 1962. Geneva sold Dickinson Air Service in 1964. After her husband's death, Geneva Schow Oleson established a scholarship for future pilots in her husband's honor.

The loss of her husband didn't discourage Geneva from flying. In 1971, at 47 years old, she earned her aerial spray certification.

On December 26, 1977, Geneva Schow Oleson was killed in a vehicle-train accident, two days before her fifty-third birthday. In 2013, Geneva was the first woman admitted into the North Dakota Aviation Hall of Fame.

This Dakota Datebook written by Derek Dahlsad.


"Geneva Schow Oleson," North Dakota Aviation Hall of Fame http://www.ndac.aero/images/goleson.pdf

"Geneva Schow Becomes Bride On Parents' Wedding Date," Bismarck Tribune, 7/16/1948.

"Mott Girl Publishes State's Only Aviation Paper,” Bismarck Tribune, 3/7/1947.

"Geneva Schow Oleson - First Woman in North Dakota Aviation Hall of Fame," North Dakota Aviation Quarterly, Vol 25 #2, http://www.ndac.aero/quarterly/2013Spring.pdf