94-year old alum dances her way through Continuing Education classes

Jo Anderson takes part in a Continuing Education tap class.
Lori Anderson helps her mother with the tap moves.
Jo Anderson used to be a Shim Sham dancer.

Jo Anderson danced her way into the 21st Century and is still going strong. The 94-year-old is living life to the fullest and would not do it any other way.

Anderson graduated from the Practical Nursing program at Southeast Community College in 1990 at the age of 67. Prior to that she earned her physical therapist degree from the College of William & Mary in 1946. Now Anderson is taking dancing and acting classes through SCC’s Continuing Education Division. She never stops learning.

“It’s especially important to do things like this when you’re older for balance and social interaction,” said Gail Ogden, SCC dance instructor. “She has a great attitude, and it demonstrates that you’re never too old.”

Ogden says many women take the Beginning Tap class numerous times because they enjoy dancing and the friendships they develop along the way.

“It’s very social, and that’s what adult education is about, making new connections and having fun,” she said.

This isn’t Anderson’s first time on the dance floor. She taught ballroom dancing in the 1940s and later was part of the Shim Sham dance group that performed at halftime during Husker basketball games.

“Everything about dancing is fun,” Anderson said. “I like to move to the music.”

Her daughter, Lori, accompanies her every week to the Holy Trinity Episcopal Church where they take part with a dozen other women in Beginning Tap Dance for Adults. On this particular day, she wore one of her costumes from her days as a Shim Sham dancer. Lori takes her mother on many of life’s adventures.“Three years ago at the Nebraska Cornhusker spring game, she participated in a flash mob dance and had a brief solo in it,” she recalled. “Two years ago we went sky-diving for her 92nd birthday in Weeping Water.”

She also took her to the Paul McCartney concert when he was in Lincoln a few years ago.

“She stood the whole time and danced,” Lori recalled. “She loved it!”

Jo originally started nursing school in 1941 but changed her career course to become a physical therapist.

“Someone saw her teaching swimming lessons and told her she’d be a good PT,” Lori said. “Training time was shorter, so she changed her major. At the time she’d never heard of physical therapy.”

But she never lost sight of wanting to become a nurse. Anderson worked at Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital and took care of patients younger than her, according to Lori.

Jo was married 66 years to her husband, Ferd. They lived all over the country and came to Nebraska in 1976 so he could be close to his family. They had seven children together, as well as five foster children. He died four years ago and while she misses him terribly, she doesn’t let life slow her down.

“It doesn’t seem like any time at all,” she said about her 94 years on earth.


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