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Maryanne Fletcher Hardman

Pilot, wife, entrepreneur, sister, daughter. Born on Aug. 22, 1963, in Fredericton, N.B.; died on May 4, 2014, in Halifax, in an ultralight plane crash, aged 50.

When we were 9, my twin sister Kathy and I eagerly welcomed into our home our newborn sister, Maryanne – our very own baby doll. The youngest of four daughters, she was also the third attempt at a son, and our father quickly nicknamed her Sam.

Mare, as she was also known, grew up with a strong sense of self, an entrepreneurial spirit, and the drive and confidence to achieve whatever she set her mind to. At 18, she headed to the University of Toronto to study commerce. She financed her education by buying two handcarts and selling hot dogs on campus and at bars along Yonge Street. Not surprisingly, she had little appetite for hot dogs later on.

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The university had no female water polo team, so Mare joined the men's team, which won many Junior Olympic championships. Swimming was a lifelong activity and she was a member of the masters swim team in Halifax in later years.

After university, Maryanne returned to Fredericton and launched her next enterprise, the Print Gallery, selling prints, gift ware and framing services. Often late with her rent, she had frequent contact with Bill Hardman, manager of the mall where her store was located. They had a meeting of the minds and she married the love of her life on May 4, 1991. After selling her business, she joined Bill in Halifax, where he had become president of his family's development firm, the Hardman Group. There, Mare launched a new career as a portfolio manager with Wood Gundy.

Several years into their marriage, Maryanne and Bill drew support from each other when they lost their only child, a daughter who was born prematurely at six months.

Mare believed in moving forward, and every Christmas season she held a party for friends and relatives. By the end of the night, everyone would be singing – not Christmas carols, but Elvis tunes. she loved Elvis and three years ago took our father, George, to Memphis to visit Graceland. She lost all control in the gift shop, bringing home items such as Elvis pyjamas and a CD of her singing his songs, karaoke-style.

Mare's adventurous spirit led her on many journeys with Bill, including several trips to Central America. Her generosity was evident in the three suitcases filled with baseball equipment she took to children on a visit to Nicaragua.

In her early 40s, her true passion emerged when she earned her pilot's licence. She flew her amphibious ultralight plane from the Stanley Airport to many Atlantic Canada destinations. It was always a buzz for her Fredericton family to watch her gracefully land on the St. John River, in front of her sister's home.

In the months before her death, Mare was working to improve the runway and historical landmarks at Harbour Grace, Nfld., where Amelia Earhart began her famous trip. And she had the visionary idea to transform the underused Shearwater Airport, a former military landing strip in Halifax, into a strip useable by both private and commercial aircraft. Friends are now continuing her efforts.

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On May 4, her 23rd wedding anniversary, Maryanne was killed while attempting to land her plane at Stanley Airport. Although she is surely flying with the angels, her husband, family, friends and colleagues are broken-hearted by her tragic death. It came much too soon. She was not finished here.

Pam Fletcher is Maryanne's sister.

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