“We’re saddened to learn of Sybil Peacock Harmon’s passing," Allison Ausband, senior vice president of in-flight service, told TODAY in an emailed statement. "Sybil was a beloved member of the Delta family who left her mark as a member of our first class of flight attendants. We will cherish her memory and wish her loved ones well in this difficult time.”
At 24 years old, Harmon graduated from nursing school and was hired as one of Delta Air Lines' first flight attendants in 1940. According to Delta, stewardesses were required to be a registered nurse during that time.
“You felt like a celebrity,” Harmon said at her 102nd birthday party thrown by Delta last year. “People would come out to the airport with their children and they would say, ‘Look, that’s the stewardess!’ They even asked for our autographs.”
A Delta press release explains, "Memories of her aviation career include serving in-flight boxed meals of fried chicken, potato salad and a Coke, and giving out chewing gum to passengers due to the lack of pressurization in the cabin."
In 1943, Harmon left Delta to join the military, entering service in January 1944 at the Army Air Force Regional Hospital in Coral Gables, Florida. She was a special duty nurse to U.S. Air Force Gen. Hap Arnold from January to April 1945 and was eventually promoted to First Lieutenant.
After leaving the military, she married U.S. Army Capt. Wallace Harmon. Their daughter, Peggy, also worked as a Delta flight attendant for 25 years.
Years later, a chance encounter between a customer and another flight attendant caused her to reconcile with the company she once worked for. For her 102nd birthday, Delta decided to throw a party in her honor, to commemorate both her company and national service.
“Flying was special because I was going places,” Harmon said. “When I was 9, I told everyone, ‘I’m going to go all over the world.’ And I did.”
“It’s a whole new world now,” she added at the time. “I am proud to have paved the way for the next generation.”