It was truly a once-in-a-lifetime event for Jane Browne.
Dressed in a blue floor-length gown with a glittery tiara resting on top of her silver locks, she sat in a recliner, surrounded by helium balloons, family and friends.
There was hula dancing by daughter Kristine and granddaughter Nanilea, and guitar-playing and singing by great-granddaughter Ashleigh from Alabama and son Ivan from northern California — all because in a few days she would officially become a centenarian.
Jane Elizabeth Haller was born on Nov. 15, 1916, several months before the United States entered World War I under the presidency of Woodrow Wilson. She became a teenager weeks before the stock market crashed, ushering in the Great Depression.
She met her future husband at Stivers High School. After school, Elvin Browne became an apprentice toolmaker at NCR and wasn’t allowed to marry for four years. Jane also worked at NCR, but had to quit her job when she became Elvin’s wife — because back then NCR didn’t employ married women.
Jane and her family are convinced one of the keys to her success is adapting to changes.
“This woman is extraordinary because she’s on Facebook,” said her daughter-in-law Isa Browne. “She still lives independently, she’s social, she dresses up, she Skypes her children and grandchildren. She’s into the Reds and Ohio State. It’s in her nature to be so progressive.”
Isa Browne’s husband formed the band Ivan and the Sabers when he was in a freshman in Centerville. “We played our first gig in 1961, our sophomore year,” he said. “My mother was a secretary at Ruskins, and she talked them into hiring us at the school gym. We used the gymnasium PA system.”
Ivan Browne had nothing but great praise for his parents’ support of his band. “We have a picture of our first rehearsals. They moved out all the furniture so we could practice in the living room. They loved it.”
Browne reflected about his mother: “She was a crazy artisan. She could make anything. She could sew my sister’s prom dresses. Painting, sculpting, weaving, knitting. She’s always knitting while she’s watching TV.”
Several of her family members recalled how Jane Browne could get up in the morning, make a dress, then wear it to work. She also made banners for Ivan and the Sabers, as well as clothes for the boys.
On Nov. 13, 1964, the band made history at Hara Arena. “We opened for the (Rolling) Stones and only 700 people came,” Ivan Browne recalled. “For us it was great.”
But it wasn’t so great for the Rolling Stones. “Boys Bomb Again” was the Dayton Daily News headline about the “anti-barber bundle from Britain.”
“The Midwest didn’t like ‘em,” Ivan Browne said. “Dayton liked the Beatles because they were clean and wore uniforms.”
Later on, Ivan Browne would be in the Lemon Pipers. That’s him singing “Green Tambourine,” which reached No. 1 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 on Feb. 3, 1968. Kristine joked that her own claim to fame was loaning Ivan the money to buy his first guitar.
So what did Jane Browne think about turning 100? “I’m just surprised,” she said. “I told somebody, ‘Eat a lot of chocolate.’
“I love people and love doing things for people, and making things for people,” she said.
“She’s the most amazing person I’ve ever know,” said daughter Kristine, who organized the party and traveled from Hawaii to be there. “She knitted 100 caps and gave them to people … when she was 99! She gives to people all the time. Just to know her is an inspiration.”
“I think one thing that makes her truly exceptional is her kindness,” added Isa Browne, “and her giving to others and her humanity.”
Jane Browne keeps an iPad in her purse and is an avid reader of the Dayton Daily News.