Meadville Tribune

Local News

March 19, 2008

Nation says goodbye to area aviation pioneer

03/19/08 — Victoria (Vicki) Van Meter, who died Saturday at her home, will be remembered by many as the 11-year-old Meadville girl who set a lofty record when she piloted a plane across the United States — and then flew from America to Europe at age 12.

But after being in the national spotlight for many months because of those historic flights, she slipped into a more private life which included serving two years with the Peace Corps.

She also fought her own personal battle with depression, an illness which cost her her life. Crawford County Chief Deputy Coroner Scott Schell ruled her death was caused by a self-inflicted gunshot wound late Saturday. She was discovered by a neighbor, Michael Thiess, at 5 p.m. Sunday at her home on Grove Street.

Vicki, who was 26, is a daughter of Jim and Corinne Van Meter. Corinne said Vicki’s problems started after puberty and the family always knew she had bouts of depression, but “we thought she was coping with it.” Vicki didn’t take any medication and found it very hard to discuss her feelings, her mother said.

Still, it didn’t prevent her from graduating summa cum laude from Edinboro University in Pennsylvania in 2004 with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and then fulfilling another lifetime dream: serving in the Peace Corps. She served from 2005 to 2007 in Cahul, Moldova, which located between the Ukraine and Romania. She was a community and organization-development volunteer, specializing in writing grants and being a consultant and translator, having learned the language within a few weeks after her assignment, her mother said.

She returned to Meadville last year and became a surveillance investigator with a firm with clients in a tri-state area.

But she continued to fight the depression.

Corinne said Vicki decided just this month to apply to graduate schools to earn a master’s degree in psychology with the ultimate goal to help young people who struggled with depression.

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