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Mind Body Soul (Part 3)

Soul Wally Funk

Wally Funk, a long-time Roanoke resident, has a past filled with thrills and daring adventures. Wally was captivated by aviation at a young age and this fueled her to break barriers and reach for the stars - quite literally.

Photo(s) curtsey of Wally Funk

Wally attended college at the age of 16 so she could attend an aviation program. She later attended OSU where she received top honors in their “Flying Aggies” program. At just 20 years of age, she became a Civilian Flight instructor at Fort Sill, Oklahoma (the first female to do so). Her passion has led her to many first: first female flight instructor at a US military base, first woman to complete the FAA's General Aviation Operations Inspector Academy course, first woman FAA field examiner, first woman in the United States to serve as an FAA SWAP (Systems Worthiness Analysis Program), and first female NTSB Air Safety Investigator. In 1961, Wally completed the grueling training required for astronauts to go to space in what was called “Mercury 13”. Unfortunately, the program was canceled before training could be completed.

Wally has deep roots and strong connections with many in the 76262 community, including Roanoke’s mayor, Scooter Gierisch. “She [Wally] is an amazing woman. She has an extensive resume throughout her life. She has been a flight instructor in recent years locally, but she was part of the astronaut training program and was one of a number of highly qualified women that met the requirements and skillsets to be an astronaut. She was in a recent documentary on Netflix with her story called Mercury 13,” Mayor Gierisch said.

Wally made her mark not only in aviation but in marksmanship, antique cars, and even zip-lining. There’s no doubt that Wally’s spirit of adventure has taken her sky-high, but you probably wouldn’t know it if you were standing next to her. Her unassuming demeanor keeps her grounded. And it’s not unusual to spot her at the local post office sending signed copies of her new book to fans around the world.

Wally’s achievements are a testament to her ability to draw from something deep down that propels her to go where very few have gone before. Mandi’s body was an exquisite vessel for her to inspire others to reach their goals. Jenee’ made up her mind that she wasn’t ready to give up. These stories may be unique, but so is yours. Set your mind on what it is that fulfills your purpose. Take care of your body so that you can pursue those dreams. And lastly, use that desire that drives you and let it fuel you to reach your dreams.

Want to know more about Roanoke’s high-flyer Wally Funk? Check out her new book which brings her full story alone in thrilling detail, “Higher, Faster, Longer” by visiting

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