Jeanne Wolf of Ebensburg says playing her piano can be restful and soothing.

She learned to play as a child and took lessons for years as a youngster.

But it’s not something this energetic, outgoing woman of a certain age – she declines to reveal how old she is – does often.

She’s too busy spending time with her family, lunching with friends and even, after 40 years, climbing into the saddle and horseback riding again. Wolf was riding in the mountains out West recently while vacationing with one her daughters.

She’s been a pilot and flight instructor, a special education teacher, a secretary and a law librarian at the county courthouse.

She has appeared in musicals, starting at age 3. She and her family “used to put on recitals and shows,” Wolf recalled. She last made an appearance as Aunt Eller in “Oklahoma,’’ staged by the Cresson Lake Playhouse a decade ago.

Now, Wolf is gearing up to write a book about her father’s Scottish ancestors after doing some family research.

“In my mind, my book starts with the day I left Pittsburgh flying to the Dallas Aviation College, and then flashes back to Dad’s ancestors in Scotland.

“One of them raised black Angus cattle, and it’s said a queen of England came to see them,” she said.

“Dad raised white-faced Herefords, and that’s how I learned to ride as a kid. He’d tell me it was time to bring them in, and I’d jump on the horse bareback and bring in the cattle.”

Wolf grew up on her family’s farm near Spangler – one of eight children of Frank and Mary McCombie.

She’s a graduate of the former Spangler High School and attended the former “Junior Pitt” in Johnstown for two years, studying liberal arts.

Her college studies were interrupted by World War II.

“Like everybody else, I wanted to do something for the war effort,” Wolf recalled.

Her father, who operated a coal business vital to the war effort, hired her as a secretary. By May 1944, Wolf wanted to learn how to fly.

“I was influenced by the death of my brother, Eddie, who was killed when his B-23 bomber was shot down in Italy,” she said.

She learned to fly on a Cub plane at the Ebensburg Airport and then went to flight school at Love Field in Texas to get her commercial pilot’s license and flight instructor rating.

Her parents didn’t want her to enlist, so she returned to Cambria County and worked as a flight instructor at both the Ebensburg and Johnstown airports.

Though she no longer pilots planes herself, the joy of it remains fresh in her mind.

“When you’re up there flying, you feel close to God,” she said.

She was part of the grassroots effort to save the Ebensburg Airport when the borough was considering selling it several years ago.

She and her husband, the late John Wolf, were married Jan. 31, 1948. Her husband worked in a family car dealership in Ebensburg.

They had five children: Jeanne Marie Murphy of Bellefonte; Jack Jr. of Pittsburgh; Katrine of Monticello, Fla.; and Eric and Thad, both of Ebensburg. There are four grandchildren.

In 1966, the Wolfs bought the Estep family home on South West Street, which had last been the county’s juvenile detention home.

At first, she was against buying a home with heavy iron bars on some windows. But when the children saw the large front window, they told her, “Mother, that’s where we put the Christmas tree,” and it was a done deal.

Wolf and her husband left town for several years in the 1980s following the oil crisis when the auto business was ebbing.

But they returned because, “Ebensburg is the best town to raise a family,” she said. “It’s small enough that people know one another but big enough to have other advantages. It’s culturally oriented in many ways.”

Wolf has served as president of the Northern Cambria Auxiliary of the Johnstown Symphony Orchestra and was active in raising money for the symphony.

She has always been challenged by her jobs or events in her life.

In the 1960s, Wolf – who did not have a teacher certification

– was tapped to be a special-ed teacher for about five years.

“They were badly in need of a teacher,” she said. Wolf worked at the former Woodvale School and had five pupils.

Her daughter, Jeanne, says her mother has instilled in her children that “We are able to do whatever we put our minds to.

“There have been successes and failures in life, but she’s always picked herself up and kept on going.”

Recommended for you