Beth Milling felt no fear as she floated 200 feet above the Iowa landscape. The sun was setting as she, with a purple scarf draped around her neck and a gray Hawkeye baseball cap resting on her head, took to the sky in a hot-air balloon. As she ascended, Milling wasn’t focused on the cars and the people who were growing smaller.
“I just couldn’t wait to get up and go on,” Milling said. “I saw fields but don’t remember looking down much. I was always looking up.”
The balloon ride was an experience the 95 1/2 — she is adament about the half — has had on her “bucket list” for years. On Sept. 21 her wish took flight.
“I saw them years ago over in California and I thought, ‘Oh that looks like fun’,” Milling said. “But I never thought I’d ever do it now that I’m so darn old.”
But Holli Welsh, director of nurses, and Haley Hopp, director of social services, at Rose Haven Nursing Home in Marengo saw the opportunity to help Milling.
Hopp said she has grown close with Milling, who has lived at the nursing home for three years. Recently, the two were talking when Milling saw a picture in The Gazette of a hot-air balloon and revealed she’d always wanted to fly in one. Milling had tried five years ago but bad weather grounded the balloon and she never went up.
Hopp heard that Mike Stratton, owner of Mike’s Repairs near Oxford, was holding a customer appreciation party at his house and was going to have hot-air balloon rides for people. So she reached out to Stratton and asked if Milling could get a ride.
“He jumped right at it and said, ‘Of course, she’ll be the first one on,’ and treated her like a queen when she got there,” Hopp said.
Both Hopp and Welsh accompanied Milling on the hot-air balloon ride. For five minutes, the trio floated above the crowd, which included Milling’s three daughters, granddaughter and great-granddaughter, that had gathered to watch Milling’s brief flight.
“It was a great experience,” Hopp said. “We’ve become really close to her. For us to do that together because we see each other every day…it was very special to be with her in that excursion.”
This isn’t the first item Milling has checked off her bucket list.
For her 90th birthday she rode on a motorcycle..
“That’s getting older, 95 1/2, and right now I’m loving life and have no idea of wanting to go,” Milling said with a chuckle.
So what’s next?
“I want a helicopter ride,” she said.