Mary Frances Scherer, a prominent Loomis resident and former Navy officer who sued the Air Force over gender discrimination at McClellan Air Force Base, died Feb. 27 of congestive heart failure, her family said. She was 90.
Mrs. Scherer was active for four decades in Loomis as a wife, mother of eight children, military veteran, civic organizer, volunteer and businesswoman.
Meanwhile, she helped lead a class-action lawsuit that shattered a glass ceiling for women in civilian jobs at U.S. Air Force bases.
"She took life full force, whatever she was involved in," said her daughter-in-law Marcie.
Mrs. Scherer was born in 1921 to Walter and Josephine Harvey, who raised four daughters in Los Angeles. She joined the Navy WAVES at the onset of World War II and rose to the rank of lieutenant in the Navy Reserve.
In 1947, she married Henry Scherer and began raising a family in Palos Verdes. After moving to Loomis in the early 1970s, she led efforts to start the popular Loomis Basin Dolphins swimming program. She supported incorporation of Loomis, where her husband was the first elected town clerk and her son Walt has served on the Town Council since 1986.
With her children grown, Mrs. Scherer went to work during the early 1980s at McClellan and was assigned to the flight instrument repair shop. While serving on the base's watchdog committee for gender discrimination, she became a co-plaintiff in a lawsuit against the U.S. secretary of the Air Force alleging that an unfair rating system kept women from being promoted to supervisory and management roles at McClellan.
After eight years, a landmark settlement was reached that opened the door to advancement for women in Air Force civilian jobs. In 1988, Soroptimist International honored Mrs. Scherer with an award for fighting to end discrimination in the military.
"She had served in the military at a time when women were breaking ground and what she was seeing at McClellan was something that hadn't changed," said her son Walt. "It wasn't the military that she knew, where women and men were equal."
Mrs. Scherer left McClellan and helped run her husband's bookkeeping business. She started and ran a day care center and spent four years as executive director of Senior LIFE Center of Loomis.
She volunteered with the Placer County Concilio and a domestic violence program known as Peace for Families. She served on the Placer County Community Action board and the Placer County Alcoholism Advisory Board. She was a past president of Soroptimist International of Rocklin/Loomis.
Mrs. Scherer was predeceased by her husband and by two sons, Chuck and Jim. The daughter of an infantry colonel, she was proud that her children and grandchildren continued the family tradition of military service. Besides joining the Sacramento X-WAVES and Alliance of Women Veterans, she was the only woman in the American Legion post in Loomis.
"One of the things that gave her so much confidence was that she knew where she came from," her son said. "She belonged to the Daughters of the American Revolution and traced her family back to the first days of our country. She knew who she was."