'Nobody could get her down' - Mary Lagerquist death

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Wednesday, October 5, 2011
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‘Nobody could get her down’: Woman who died after plane crash always upbeat, sister recalls

By Jeff Chew
Wednesday, October 5, 2011 12:01am

AGNEW — Lyla Stoike lost more than a loving sister Sunday.

Gone is her best friend, a woman who always was upbeat and helped Stoike find her Atterberry Road home in the Dungeness Vall­ey.

“She was the best friend a girl could ever have. I sure wish Mom and Dad had more kids, at least one like Mary,” Stoike said Tuesday of her older sister.

“This is terrible.”

Mary Lagerquist’s body was recovered Monday from the rough, chilly waters of Chesapeake Bay, Md., after a small plane piloted by her son crashed in the bay.

Lagerquist, 78, who lived on Hooker Road in a log home in the foothills south of Carlsborg a few miles southeast of her sister’s home, was a passenger in the plane owned and piloted by her son, Lanson C. Ross III, 48, an Air Force pilot recently transferred to Fort Washington, Md.

Ross told investigators that the two-seater, single-engine aircraft lost power and that he was trying to reach Smith Island, a wildlife refuge at the entrance of Chesapeake Bay near the Virginia state line.

Earlier in the day, Ross flew his mother in the two-seater 1948 Temco Globe GC-1 Swift from Hyde Field in Clinton, Md., to Tangier Island.

After visiting the island, they were beginning their trip back to Hyde Field in the Washington, D.C., suburbs when the plane began experiencing problems, according to state police.

Soon after his 3:30 p.m. distress call to Patuxent River Naval Air Station, Ross was forced to crash into the Chesapeake Bay.

The small plane sank rapidly, but both Ross and his mother, who was injured in the crash, were able to exit, police said.

The two were attempting to swim together to shore in rough, chilly waters when, after about a mile, she could not continue, police said.

Her body was recovered off the southern end of Smith Island at about 9 a.m. EDT Monday, police said.

Desperate to save his mother’s life, Stoike said, Lagerquist’s son took off his blue jeans, tying the ankles in knots to create a makeshift life preserver for her.

“He held her until she died,” Stoike said.

A Maryland State Police spokesman said they fought high seas with waves up to 5 feet and temperatures in the low 60s.

Ross made it to shore at about 8 p.m. and was taken to Peninsula Regional Medical Center in Salisbury, Md., where he was treated and released.

The plane has yet to be located.

Stoike said Ross fell into the arms of his father, Lanson Ross II, a Sequim resident for about three years, and cried out: “Daddy, I killed my momma.”

Stoike remembered her sister as a talented musician, a master on the marimba who in her later years had worked for Holl­and America Line, entertaining on cruise ships.

Lagerquist and Stoike grew up in Mission, Kan.

Stoike said her sister made her mark early as a musician, taking lead chair in the percussion section of the Kansas City Philharmonic Orchestra at age 16.

Lagerquist earned a bachelor’s degree from Wheaton College and her master’s degree from the Chicago Conservatory of Music.

Lagerquist also toured with a marimba band, including a performance on Ed Sullivan’s original “Toast of the Town” TV show.

She married Lanson Ross II in 1957, and they had sons Lanson III and David together.

They divorced after 32 years but remained close friends.

Stoike said Lagerquist and ex-husband Ross were traveling together by RV when they stopped last week in Maryland to see their son.

Ross still makes his home in Sequim, Stoike said.

Lagerquist moved to the Sequim area in 2000 and married her second husband, George Lagerquist, in 2002. He later died of Alzheimer’s disease.

“[My sister and I] just always had an absolutely fantastic relationship,” Stoike said, one that included scuba diving together in warmer climes and even taking tap dancing lessons as seniors together in Sequim.

It was Lagerquist who found a new home for her sister, Stoike said.

“And she liked the weather here so much she decided to move here, too,” Stoike said.

Stoike also recalls her sister performing marimba for Sequim Senior Activity Center members.

“But when she got too old for it, she hung up her mallets,” Stoike said.

“She was fun and had just a loving nature that I will never find in anyone else,” she said. “You could call her any time of day, and she would always be up.

“Nobody could get her down.”

Lagerquist attended Dungeness Community Church on Eberle Lane near Sequim-Dungeness Way.

While services were pending, Stoike said it was likely that her sister’s cremated remains would be interred at a family plot the sisters will share with their husbands in a church cemetery, “a peaceful little place” outside of Rose Creek, Minn.

Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Jeff Chew can be reached at 360-681-2391 or at jeff.chew@peninsuladailynews.com.