Flying high at 100 years old

Patrice Howe, a bridge club buddy of Jane Lipscomb, was tasked with interviewing Jane a week before her 100th birthday. She wanted to find out more about Jane’s storied life and what the 100-year-old firecracker, as her friends call her, still hopes to accomplish.

“The last question I asked during the interview was out of all the adventures you’ve had in your life, what’s the one thing still on your bucket list,” Patrice said.

Jane, a former theater actor, opera singer, and “Debutante,” had a quick response: ride in a hot air balloon. So a group from Jane’s bridge club, led by Patrice and Nancy Cogburn, worked to surprise their friend and her son, Lloyd Lipscomb, at her upcoming birthday party.

Patrice called Brian Rohr of Rohr Balloons, a family-owned hot air balloon business in North Texas, and on Wednesday, July 12, Jane took to the sky in a hot air balloon.

With a rose-embroidered hat that she was quick to show off, Jane and her son took off from Allen on a trip she called once in a lifetime. 

Jane grew up on a ranch in Amarillo where she learned to drive at the age of eight. She received a degree in music education in 1937 from SCW (Texas State College for Women), a precursor to today’s Texas Woman’s University in Denton. After one year of teaching, she joined the Amarillo Little Theater, where she performed, helped build sets, and worked in the ticket booth.

Afterward, she pursued a master’s degree at Columbia University in New York to study voice. She auditioned for a Gilbert and Sullivan Opera on Broadway and joined the show’s chorus.

During that time, she also joined a group of six female singers called “Debutantes.” The group toured across the Unites States and Canada at state fairs, hotels, and variety clubs.

One night while her company left a show in Washington, D.C. bound for the Adolphus Hotel in Dallas, their train stopped in Tennessee and a man came on board and yelled, “We are at war!” It was December 7, 1941. 

Eventually fired because she could not hit the high “C” in a performance, Jane returned to Dallas and married her good friend, Joe Lipscomb. Joe had just graduated as part of the first class from Southwestern Medical School and later became an M.D. and Lieutenant in the US Army. He spent the war years as a ship’s doctor and captain.

While Joe was finishing school, Jane worked for Delta Airlines at Love Field. Later, the couple adopted two children, Lloyd and Laura. Adopting her two children, Jane admits, was the happiest moment of her life.

Jane’s 100th birthday party, hosted on Friday, June 30, at Via Real Restaurant, included her immediate family and bridge club partners. Honored to host the special occasion, the restaurant’s manager presented Jane with a card that gives her a free meal at the business for the rest of her life.

During the celebration, a group of Jane’s bridge club friends, including Patrice and Nancy, presented Jane with framed pictures as well as proclamations from the city of Irving declaring June 30 “Jane Lipscomb Day” as well as a congratulatory letter from U.S. Senator from Texas, John Cornyn.

Jane’s son Lloyd did not originally sign up for the ride. Patrice volunteered him in front of everyone in attendance during the birthday celebration.

“I handed the picture of the hot air balloon to Jane along with, ‘I’m not going with you, your son is,’” Patrice said. “I knew she would want to be with her child.” She said Jane cackled with excited upon receiving the gift.

After the ride, Lloyd was all smiles.

“It was magical, it was heavenly,” he said. “It was beyond what I expected. She stood up the whole time until we started coming in for the landing.”

Rohr Balloons began operations in 1994. Brian Rohr, a commercial pilot, has been flying since the age of six and his company has eight hot air balloons of various sizes. Rohr’s team said they recently flew a woman who was 101 years old.

When asked what would be her next adventure, Jane reflected for a minute before settling on a ride in an airboat across a swamp. For now, she says, she wants to concentrate on the hot air balloon.

“I’m going to get up in that balloon,” she said. “That’s enough for today.”

About the Author

Joe Snell
Joe Snell studied film and business law at the University of Southern California. He has worked for a number of film and television companies including 21st Century Fox, Starz Entertainment, Creative Artists Agency, and Brillstein Entertainment Partners.