There are few Island residents who would not have heard of Mary Ellis, perhaps one of our most renown centenarians.

Her incredibly brave and honourable time spent with the Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA) during the Second World War has been well documented and covered in many forms of media.

During the war, Mary delivered over 1,000 planes, including Spitfires and Wellington bombers, equipped with just a compass, a stopwatch and a map.

Mary delivered the very first Meteor jet when seconded to the RAF at the end of the war.

She was told: "You will run out of fuel in about 35 minutes, so make sure you’re down by then." Needless to say, she made sure she was.

What is not so well known is why Mary settled on the IW rather than return to Brize Norton after the war.

In April 1949, Mary was employed on the Island by Mr. Clarke, who originally appointed her as his private pilot to fly him to his various farms and agricultural shows across the country.

However, quickly realising the potential Mary had to offer, he bought Sandown Airport and asked Mary to run the airfield.

Between 1951 and 1968, she transformed the Airport into a commercial success.

Not only did she set up a flying school specialising in teaching women to fly, but Mary also worked hard to meet the standards and safety requirements for aircraft such as DC-3’s,Herons, Rapides and Doves to land at the airport.

This enabled her to develop her own form of package holidays, bringing visitors to the Island and organising buses to take passengers to and from their hotels, as is now done all over the world.

Mary kept sheep as airstrip lawn mowers, and when she was recently awarded the Freedom of the IW, it gave her great amusement that it came with the right to drive her sheep down Newport High Street.

Mary ran Sandown airfield until it was sold in 1968.

She then joined her husband, Donald Ellis, who was working in the Middle East for British Hovercraft.

Despite moving to a country where women were not allowed to drive a car, let alone fly a plane, Mary turned the situation to her advantage and was well-known and appreciated for welcoming visitors and hosting the most wonderful parties.

She loved Donald and was incredibly proud when he was awarded an OBE for his services in promoting the British hovercraft.

On their return to the UK, they came home to the IW where together, they ran their pleasure flight business from the airport for many years.

Mary lived life to the full; in the two weeks before she passed away peacefully at her home, she was out every single day attending various engagements, including the London premiere of “Spitfires” and as a guest of honour at the RAF Club.

At Mary’s 100th birthday celebration, she was asked what her favourite aircraft was.

She said with true conviction: "the Spitfire, as it symbolises freedom".

So, fly free Mary, and we can but hope you are having a sherry in heaven with your beloved Donald, sister Tiny and your many friends who will be waiting for you to give them one of your warm beautiful smiles.