Beacon Field Airport®


Elevation 249 feet, Fairfax County, Virginia          GPS 38 46'20.40"N :  77 4'54.07"W
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Beacon Flier Salute !

Mrs. Mary Lewis Lehman

Mary Lewis (Reid) Lehman was a light plane aviation enthusiast and pioneer businesswoman who worked at her family owned airport, Beacon Field.   She was the daughter of the second longest serving Fairfax County Chairman of the Board, W.F.P. Reid. 

The Washington Post, September 7, 1931

Mrs. Lehman was known for her outgoing gregarious personality.  Local newspapers such as the Fairfax Herald and Washington Post frequently reported on the social activities of the young Mary Lewis.    Nicknamed "Sleepy Reid",  she graduated from Lee-Jackson High School in Alexandria and was noted as a student leader and frequent prize winner in the Mt. Vernon Fairs.  

After high school,  Mary Lewis stayed closed to home in Groveton working on the family's dairy farm and City View motel.    In the evenings,  she would assist her parents and grandfather, George K. Pickett, with the entertainment at the Groveton Community Club meetings and helped organize the fairs, carnivals, and sports events.    Growing up in the large City View mansion, she was also afforded the opportunity to participate in many social events hosted by her parents and attended by society notables.   She acquired culinary skills enabling hosting ten or a hundred guests. 

At Beacon Field, Mary Lewis met her husband Harry J. Lehman, who had just returned from service in the Army Air Corp 44th Observation Squadron in Panama. Shortly after their marriage when the US entered World War II, they moved to Clewiston, Florida, where Harry became the Chief Flight Instructor for the Royal Air Force.  

When they returned to Virginia after the war, Mary Lewis, her husband Harry, and brother Franklin,  founded a large commercial aviation training program at Beacon Field in 1944.   Her husband and brother conducted pilot training while Mary Lewis  as Secretary-Treasurer of Alexandria-Airport Inc. managed the daily operations of the office and performed airport dispatch services.    Although she was deemed by many as the "General",  she fostered a family atmosphere and insisted upon a Christmas tree decorating party every year in the office.  She became the "home away from home" Mom to neighborhood kids who came to the airport dreaming of pilot's wings.

She encouraged comradeship amongst the other local airports Hybla Valley,  Bailey Crossroads, and Rose Valley.    In the interest of safety,  she shared bad student stories with other dispatchers to raise awareness of potential accidents.     To promote aviation,  she initiated or joined with other airports in promotional events including the commemoration of Orville Wright's Birthday, Washington Air Derby races, and the airshows.

When the family closed Beacon Field in 1959, Mary Lewis and Harry moved their pilot training operation Beacon Flying Service to Hyde Field (W32) in Clinton, Maryland.    They assumed the fixed based operator responsibilities for the airport owner Mr. Arthur C. Hyde.      She was the Vice-President managing the daily operations of the airfield and working the dispatch desk.  W32 was a smaller but occasionally busier airfield than Beacon which allowed Mary Lewis more time for her favorite activities gardening, swimming, and creative art. 

Mary Lewis Lehman and Bill Cator at W32

At the time of her death she was active in the airport operations and had over 37 years in aviation.    Mary Lewis had no interest in learning to fly .    Despite promoting the benefits of careers in commercial aviation to others,  she would rather have walked or flown in a Cessna 150 to Acapulco or Las Vegas than in an airliner.  

She traveled extensively by automobile throughout the US and Canada collecting rustic artifacts and reflecting a southwestern decor  in her home.    She even had real trees incorporated as support beams into a great room addition.    Her hot rod red Chevy II station wagon was  a familiar site on the local roads and on more than one occasion was cited for speeding !

An original Mary Lewis Lehman pencil/charcoal sketch