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Gertrude Sugden Rogallo

January 28, 2008

Southern Shores- Educator, inventor, flight pioneer, loving wife, and devoted mother Gertrude Sugden Rogallo died Monday January 28, 2008 at her Southern Shores residence. She was ninety-four.  Gertrude, born January 13, 1914 in Hampton Virginia was one of the four children of the late Robert Greenwood and Mary Virginia Sugden. She graduated from Hampton High School in 1930.  Gertrude went on to graduate with a degree in Latin from Longwood College in 1934 ranking in the top ten students in the class.

After completing her college studies, Gertrude obtained a teaching position in Gloucester, Virginia and embarked on what would be a long and distinguished career in education. In 1939 she married the love of her life Francis Melvin Rogallo- a young aeronautics engineer with NACA (now NASA) at Langley Air Force Base.  The couple raised four children; Marie, Robert, Carol, and Frances.

While Gertrude was busy as a homemaker she actively supported her husband’s passion and dream of creating a vehicle to make flight affordable and available to everyone.  While pursuing their dream, the couple met the legendary inventor Orville Wright who fueled their spirit of invention.  Finally, Francis designed and tested the prototype for what would later become the flexible wing hang glider; Gertrude sewed its wings on her sewing machine out of fabric recycled from old kitchen curtains.  She sewed each of Francis’s prototype modifications thereafter.

The patent for the flexible wing hand glider was eventually awarded to Gertrude and husband Francis in 1951, changing the history of aviation forever.  Francis and Gertrude have been and are today internationally recognized as co-inventors of the hang glider.  Gertrude went on to be the recipient of several prestigious awards including the Katherine Wright Award, induction into the Paul Garber Shrine, and induction into the Century of Flight Monument in Kitty Hawk in 2003.  The couple’s portraits hang today in the Wright Brothers National Memorial.

In addition to earning accolades as an inventor, Gertrude pursued her love of education serving as a teacher and principal at the St. Andrews Episcopal Day School in Newport News, Virginia.  Later she earned a position as the principal of the Robert Sugden School in Hampton which was founded by Gertrude’s mother- also a gifted educator.

In 1967, Gertrude and Francis were lured to the beauty of the outer banks and purchased a summer cottage here.  Later, they would relocate to Kitty Hawk permanently where they were fixtures at the local aviation group meetings and gliding events.  Gertrude embraced the outer banks community by becoming an active member of St. Andrews Episcopal Church and later a founding member of All Saints Episcopal Church; joining the Dunes of Dare Garden Club, volunteering for the Red Cross, and acting as a poll worker for the Democratic Women of Dare County. She was also a charter member of the Outer Banks Community Foundation.

Left to cherish the memory and spirit of Gertrude Rogallo is her husband and “life-long co-pilot” Francis M. Rogallo of the Southern Shores residence, their four children; Marie “Bunny” Rogallo Samuels and husband Phillip, Carol Rogallo Sparks and husband Norman all of Southern Shores, Frances Rogallo MacEachren and husband Alan of Boalsburg, Pennsylvania, and Robert Sugden Rogallo and wife Sara of Los Altos Hills California. Gertrude also leaves three grandchildren and six great-grandchildren who loved her very much and will miss her dearly.

A celebration of Gertrude’s life and achievements will be held at All Saints Episcopal Church in Southern Shores Sunday February 3, 2008 at 1 O’clock in the afternoon. A reception will follow immediately after the service at Duck Woods Country Club.  In lieu of flowers, memorial tributes may be forwarded to All Saints Episcopal Church.  The family extends its special gratitude to their wonderful caregivers who lovingly attended her over the years and to Dr. Delena Phillips and Dr. Michael Smith.

Condolences may be sent to the family via the on-line register at www.gallopfuneral  Gallop Funeral Services, Inc. was entrusted with arrangements.