Today, May 21, Georgeanna Lipe will celebrate her 100th birthday. If you do not know her, you might conjure up the image of a wizened old lady, maybe bedridden, hunched over, perhaps partially deaf or going blind. This is not the case with Georgeanna Lipe! Beyond her 96th year, she was as spry as any 40-year-old. Her time was too occupied to consider the aging process. It just stopped for her. Her energy was tapped into her creativity. And this, for Georgeanna, was a relatively new venture.
In the late 1920s and early ’30s, Anna White decided to attend Vanderbilt Medical School. Her goal was to become a medical illustrator. Few women attended medical school in those days. In fact, one summer she attended an anatomy class and was the only female student. Despite the teasing, she succeeded, passing the course and eventually realizing her objective.
The post-Depression years were hard. Anna had married a young doctor from Vanderbilt who was serving his residency in Rochester, N.Y. He was making $25 a month, so his young bride stayed home with her parents in Nashville. This lasted only one year. Feisty Anna Lipe was not going to be away from her husband one more year.
She went up to Rochester from Nashville to be with her husband. They lived in one small room on the third floor of a house not far from the hospital and had to climb upstairs to use a bathroom, which they shared with another young couple. Using her initiative and skill, the young bride earned the necessary extra income by creating cards, invitations and announcements using calligraphy and drawings for churches and organizations in Rochester.
Finally, Dr. Lipe began his practice. In response to an ad in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the Lipes drove blindly, having no idea exactly where they were going, across the United States in 1936 (no superhighways, no regular pit stops or gas stations) to a place called La Jolla. En route, Anna renamed herself and became Georgeanna after her father George and her mother Anna.
After raising two of her three children, Georgeanna began experimenting with oil painting, but it was watercolors that captured her fancy. She has become a living legend in La Jolla with her paintings being used for art festival posters, purchased for businesses, and receiving commissions faster than she can fill them. In her mid-80s, she also opened The Artists Gallery on Girard Avenue.
Over the years, Georgeanna traveled all over the world, always with her paints at her side. One year her art group went to Italy. After climbing the hills of Tuscany for 10 days, she returned to the U.S. by air only to be met in New York with a wheelchair. Sure, she accepted it, laughing all the way through customs, beating her friends and delighting in the joke. If only the airline stewards knew where she had been and what she had done! But then, 90-year-olds aren’t supposed to climb mountains, are they?
Now she has reached the pinnacle: her 100th year. She is physically encumbered by old age, but you will never meet a more sweet, happy, always cheerful lady. Perhaps it is just this cheerfulness that is the lesson Georgeanna Lipe is here to teach us today.
—Patricia Daly-Lipe and her husband Steele were longtime residents of La Jolla before relocating to Virginia several years ago. A graduate of The Bishop’s School, Patricia has written several books, including “La Jolla: A Celebration of Its Past,” which was serialized in the Village News prior to publication.