Happy 95th birthday, Jeanne! Jeanne marked one item off her bucket list this year

Photos by James Donaldson /  Jeanne Johnson has lived an adventurous life. Here she is celebrating her 95th birthday... by skydiving!!

Photos by James Donaldson / Jeanne Johnson has lived an adventurous life. Here she is celebrating her 95th birthday… by skydiving!!

Just months ago Jeanne Johnson didn’t know what a bucket list was. But, on her 95th birthday, Monday, Oct. 5, she marked one item off it. On the fence about skydiving, she made the announcement to friends at the Pioneer Towers coffee room earlier that morning that she was headed to Lodi for the big jump. When she returned home, a big party was held at next door’s Strings Urban Kitchen. Organized by her skydiving friend and Pioneer Towers resident, Steve Austin, the party had other residents from the apartment complex attend and hear about their friend’s daring adventure.
It wasn’t until just months ago when Steve asked her what’s on her bucket list that she realized she wanted to go skydiving. “I said, ‘What do you mean by your bucket?’ And he said, ‘Those are the things you want to do before you leave this planet.’ Well, I said I want to skydive, take a balloon trip to Napa; I want to take a trip down the Colorado River. Those are on my bucket. I only took one off my bucket so far.”
Before she took the leap, a staff member from Parachute Center, the skydiving company of choice in Lodi, slid open that sliding glass window and said, “‘Okay, it’s your turn.’ That was the most exciting moment… I didn’t tell any of my family I was doing any of this,” Jeanne said with a chuckle. “They called to wish me happy birthday, and I said I did a sky dive. They didn’t register it at first – my niece and son-in-law who are now living in Williamsburg. They want me to move back there, but I like my climate. I am sure if I went back there no one would encourage sky diving.”
Born on Oct. 5, 1920 in her T Street family home, which her grandfather built, Jeanne lived much of her life there. Located just about eight blocks from her current residence, Jeanne said the house was ultimately torn down due to ongoing upkeep of expenses like rewiring, but rather than seeing the situation with the house as a setback, Jeanne and her husband Raymond took it as an opportunity to start a chapter of more adventure. “We decided to rent down at Capitol Towers and start traveling. We had wonderful trips and there was no more worrying about who is going to take care of the property.”

Jeanne taught at Crocker Elementary for 18 years after brief stints at Sacramento area schools including, Bowling Green, a grammar school her own father attended in Ione and one year at Elk Grove Unified “because they couldn’t make up their minds in Sacramento if they wanted me or not.” Recalling that time in her life, Jeanne said she was supposed to teach fourth grade, “but the young man who was doing seventh was called to war so the principal asked if I would do seventh instead of fourth. It turned out to be one of my most delightful years because seventh graders came back from farms nearby. It was really a lovely group of young people. Then, I came and taught at Sacramento Unified.”
A member of the Sacramento High School 1937 graduating class, Jeanne’s class (of “about 700 students”) was the last before C.K. McClatchy opened. Prior to high school, Jeanne attended William Land Elementary School and California Junior High School. Her high school graduation was held at Hughes Stadium, and she recalls being in either the third or fourth grade during the opening of Hughes Stadium, which was an extraordinary experience as she was part of a pageant put on by the city school’s musical department for the big day. “We had a wonderful music department in city schools at that time. My class – we were supposed to be Europeans; we did a Russian dance. My class practiced in the auditorium at William Land School.”
Undoubtedly, teachers instilled in her a sense of adventure as after every summer vacation they would return with great stories of travel and experience. “I remember quite clearly the lady who came back from France, Miss Fleming. I was enthralled of what she had to tell us. It’s where I got the travel bug and my father never said ‘no’ about travel. ‘If you could do it, do it,’” Jeanne’s father would say. Then there were the “Good Housekeeping” magazine articles, featuring stories about writers’ travels in Africa. “So, I’ve had a lifelong interest in places.”

And, taking heed of her teachers’ stories, she and Raymond were able to travel after they both retired. “We were able to just get rid of the property and take off. (Raymond’s) sons were raised and it worked out very well. He died on the last day of 2000, and after that, my niece and her husband have had me as a traveling companion for many trips. Somebody said, ‘well, did you write up anything?’ I used to write on my trips, whether on train, or boat, or whatever, but I only did that for my own information and who knows where that is.”
Returning to the conversation about her family and their opinions regarding the skydive adventure, Jeanne said while no one would encourage her to take the jump, she said the following about her family and her zest for life: “We are not stick-in-the-muds. Anyway, it’s fun. Now, I have a few aches from my jump. I understand that’s normal.”

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