Kaufman had been hunting in northern British Columbia in late September and when he came out
of the wilderness, he heard the report that two American balloonists had been lost over the Adriatic
Sea. “I immediately had a bad feeling about it,” he recalls. “And when I arrived home I was crushed
to find out that it was Carol.”
Kaufman’s friendship and probing curiosity gave him insight into the “other” sides of Carol Rymer
Davis. “It was only in the last year that I came to realize that she was THE preeminent female competitive balloonist in the world,” says Kaufman. “Once I showed interest and asked about it, she
started to open up.”
Davis and Abruzzo were flying in the 54th Gordon Bennett Gas Balloon Race, which launched out
of Bristol, England, on Sept. 25. But contact with the pair was lost on Sept. 29 over the Adriatic Sea.
After a five-day search, the rescue effort was abandoned. Davis and Abruzzo had won this prestigious race in 2004, as well as the America’s Challenge in 2003. Both races are considered pinnacles
of the sport, where contestants use only wind currents and fluctuations in temperatures to get the
most distance out of their balloons.
Davis had also managed to capture four world records over the length of her career. After flying
balloons for six years, Davis set her first solo altitude record of 25,000 feet in 1978. One year later,
she topped that with a flight of 31,000 feet. Her other records came for distance and duration in hot
Her accomplishments earned her induction into the Balloon Hall of Fame in 2005, which was the
same year she was recognized with a national award for outstanding performance by a woman
in any form of aviation. Davis was also inducted posthumously into the Colorado Aviation Hall of
Needless to say, the balloon racing community has been devastated. Albuquerque pilot and friend
Kim Vesely says: “These are people who lived life every minute. They had a passion for life and lived
it fully. We want everybody else to do that, too.”
At this year’s America’s Challenge race in Albuquerque, organizers included a special tribute before
the launch to honor Davis and Abruzzo. White helium balloons were released, and each of the six
participating balloons carried strings of chili peppers to remember Abruzzo and pink breast cancer
ribbons to honor Davis’s work in radiology.
Radiology? Yes, there’s still more, which was revealed in the eulogy, written and delivered by her
brother-in-law, Drew Davis. The fact that Davis climbed all of Colorado’s 14,000-foot peaks by the
time she was 18 was a fair indication that she was destined to be an achiever. As an example, Dr.
Carol Rymer (she used her maiden name in her medical career) earned her medical degree in
radiology, served on the Ship Hope, which was then harbored in Ceylon, and went on to head the
Nuclear Medicine Department of Radiology at the Lovelace Clinic in Denver.
Even fewer of her friends from her athletic life were aware that Davis served in the U.S. Army, as a
reservist flight surgeon and then in active duty during the Desert Storm War, where she was award-
ed the Meritorious Service Medal. She progressed through the ranks to retire as a colonel. While in
the Army, Davis was a finalist in the selection process to be an Army astronaut for the space shuttle
program in 1988.
And then there was Carol Rymer Davis, the artist, who built a harpsichord, worked with stained
glass and created glass jewelry. And Davis, the nationally ranked racquetball player, national quar-
terfinalist in handball, and competitor in marathons, bicycle racing and triathlons. And Davis, loving
wife of 42 years, mother of two daughters and grandmother of five.
In describing his sister-in-law, Drew Davis says: “She was an outstanding woman. She was very,
very competitive and whenever she started something, she had the attitude of, ‘I will be the best.’”
Lee Kaufman had it right when he noted, “Carol was a woman of few words, but still waters run
Carol and Rocky Mountain President Jen Kaufman
enjoy the fall Rocky Mountain Masters party.
Carol and Charlie Hauser cut the rug at the
fall Rocky Mountain Masters party.