Monday, November 27, 2006

At 104, woman hits a high point

Well this beats my personnal best of 96 I think it was, I don't know about
you but I always find flying older folk an absolute pleasure. Its always
worrying as to their health but they generally behave and listen better than
there 20 something fellow travellers. Especially if the 20 year old chap has
his 18 year old girlfriend on board to impress ;-)

Monday, November 27, 2006 12:46 AM CST

TEXARKANA, Ark. - Riding in a helicopter, on the back of a Harley or in a
hot air balloon may not seem like a dare-devil's resume, but it does sound
at least daring for someone who is 104 years old.

Since turning 100, Annie Conner, known by most people as "Little Annie
Conner," has been celebrating her birthdays with first-time experiences.
Last week, she went up in a hot air balloon, something she has wanted to do
ever since seeing one while on a trip to Dallas with her late husband.

"All of a sudden I noticed a hot air balloon beside us going about the same
speed we were," Conner recalled. "The first thing I knew, the balloon
crossed the highway. He was not confined to that damned concrete highway. He
was free and I have wanted to be free ever since."

Although Conner's birthday was actually Sept. 21, bad weather and scheduling
conflicts prevented her from going up in the balloon until last Wednesday.

Brenda Smith, a manager of Cowhorn Creek Estates where Conner has lived for
the past four years, said officials there threw her a hot air balloon-themed
birthday party for her back in September. Conner's enthusiasm about the
flight did not wane despite the delay, Smith said.

"She was so excited she laid out her clothes the night before," Smith said.

Conner was dressed and ready to go hours before takeoff Wednesday.

She said she had been told repeatedly to dress warm enough for the occasion
and had tried her best, right down to a pair of maroon leggings that she'd
had for 30 years but had never worn.

By 3:15 p.m. she was out of her apartment door and walking at a brisk pace
toward the staircase she climbs each day at Cowhorn Creek. She tells her
great nephew Johne Cole, an architect in Carrollton, Texas, who canceled his
appointments to drive to Texarkana to witness her adventure, that she
doesn't want to depend on the elevator.

"She tells me that if you use the elevator, you will always have to use
one," he said.

She said she also doesn't have any use for the cane she got a few years ago.

"I found out that I was a slave to that cane. I was always worried about
tripping on it, so one day I just hung it up," Conner said.

One of the words people often use to describe Annie Conner is independent,
Cole said.

During World War I, Conner delayed her graduation at Texas High School by
taking off for two years to keep her family's business, Crow's Laundry, but
was still named honorary valedictorian. She has been working with numbers
since she was a grade school girl and began helping her father with
bookkeeping for the business.

And if she could still see well enough, she would be filing her own income
taxes, she said. The former accountant helped other people file their income
taxes until she was around 95.

But around 4:30 p.m. Wednesday afternoon, Conner briefly yielded her
independence and allowed herself to be lifted into the balloon basket.

She was joined by Texarkana, Texas, Mayor James Bramlett for the tethered
ride in a baseball field behind First Baptist Church. It wasn't the first
time Bramlett had joined Conner for one of her adventures. When she turned
101, he agreed to go along for her helicopter ride.

Conner described the experience of riding in the balloon as "great," and
grabbed onto the hand of balloon pilot Christopher Montano as the balloon
made its way back to the ground for the final time.

"You don't know what it means to me," she told him. "This is a
once-in-a-lifetime experience."

Information from: Texarkana Gazette,

A service of the Associated Press(AP)

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