April 24, 1915 - April 10, 1942
An only child, Mary Kathryn Heysel was born on April 24, 1915 in Niagara Falls, New York, USA to John Joseph and Etta (nee Howard) Heysel, later of Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada. Mr. Heysel was a power house operator. (Mary was two weeks old when the family moved to Niagara Falls, Ontario.) Noted were four uncles and two aunts, plus her grandparents as relatives. The family was of German heritage, parents both born in Ontario, and Roman Catholic.
Mary attended St. Patrick's School from 1921 to 1928, then Collegiate-Vocational Institute, Niagara Falls, Ontario from September 1928 until about Christmas 1933, first in the academic Department, then in the Commercial. "In the Academic department, she secured Lower School standing in Geography, Arithmatic, Grammar and Physiography. She then transferred to the Commercial Department and had secured her first two years and was making satisfactory progress in the third when she left school." E. J. McGirr, Principal
One reference letter, dated January 1942: "I have known Miss Mary Heysel for ten years. She is of fine family and is highly regarded. I would heartily recommend her for any position of trust." F. Carl Ward, Secretery, Niagara Falls Chamber of Commerce
Reverend Hugh J. Austin, of St. Patrick's Rectory in Niagara Falls, Ontario stated, "This is to certify that Mary Heysel, 913 Armoury Street, is a member of St. Patrick's Church in very good standing. I do not hesitate to recommend this young lady as one of sterling character and good morals and I am sure that any duties entrusted to her in the Women's Auxiliary Air Fore would be carried out to the best of her ability."
She listed her civil occupations:
When asked if she was in debt, she indicated she was making payments on a coat.
Mary Heysel attested on January 20, 1942. She stood 62" tall, weighed 124 pounds and had a mole under her right eye, plus a burn scar under her left arm. (At 15, she had infantile paralysis from hips down, but total recovery in six weeks.) During training in Toronto from February and March 1942, she was 13 out of 15 in her class, with a 62% achieved. She was not considered for an instructor, but "a hard working student and has proven herself to be a good student. Reliable. Very healthy girl."
AW2 Heysel was posted to No. 14 Service Flying Training School (SFTS), Aylmer, as an automobile equipment assistant.
On April 7, 1942 at Aylmer, she was noted as having "painful flat feet...it is a mechanical defect and is leading to muscle deficiency. The present shoe is defective. A new issue is required. It is pointed out that the construction of the sole of this shoe in not satisfactory and the surface is lumping. TREATMENT: to have shoe alterations Thomas Heels 1/16th inch inner heel wedge and 1/12th inch inner sole wedge. In addition, she should have the routine management for sub-acute flat foot. She should be excused all marching and physical training for ten days. Strapping should be carried out with intervals of bathing, etc for three weeks. It is pointed out that this woman has the type of foot which will require a gradual step up in the muscle training as applied to the foot. I believe the prognosis will be satisfactory."
On April 10, 1942, AW2 Heysel was admitted to the St. Thomas Technical Training School (TTS) Hospital following a motor vehicle accident on No. 3 Highway 11 miles east of Aylmer, Ontario. She was admitted by No. 14 SFTS (Aylmer) ambulance. "She was unconscious and very restless. Examination revealed no broken bones. Reflexes present - left pupil dilated and does not react to light. Bleeding from left eardrum, ruptured cerebro spinal fluid escaping from nose. Breathing irregular and shallow, almost pulseless. Patient arrived at 2020 hours and while preparations have been made for supportive therapy, expired at 2100 hours. IMPRESSION: Fracture middle and anterior fossa left skull base." S/L C. W. Wilson CAUSE of Accident: Obscure
Mary Heysel had been proceeding on leave at the time of the accident with Cpl David George Mansfield, R89493, from Thorold, Ontario. Mansfield was noted as "Seriously injured in automobile accident" in newspapers. In the Ottawa Journal, it was reported that Cpl Mansfield suffered a broken back when the car he was driving, with AW2 Heysel as passenger, collided with another car, five miles west of Tillsonburg, Ontario, on a Friday night. The Station Diary from No. 1 TTS at St. Thomas noted the winds were high and it had snowed all night. No mention of the accident was evident in the diary.
In AW2 Heysel's personal belongings, she had toiletries, clothing, photos, glasses in a case, an electric iron, a badminton racquet and frame, letters, and a cellulate drinking glass. She also had a rosary and cross, a wrist watch, bus tickets, a Roman Catholic locket, an identification bracelet, and two rings, one of them an engagement ring.
Aircraftwoman 2nd Class Mary Kathryn Heysel was the first woman killed in active service since the formation of the CWAAF/RCAF (WD). She is buried at the Fairview Cemetery, Niagara Falls, Ontario. Her parents sent a note to Air Marshall Breadnor of the RCAF. "Your kind expression of sympathy is deeply appreciated and gratefully acknowledged."