‘Flying Lady’ Jan Perlitch dies

Jan Perlitch

Morgan Hill residents Jan and Irv Perlitch were purveyors of the
American Dream, two people who were role models for the can-do
spirit of the country.
Janice Perlitch, 79, died Jan. 6 after a brief battle with
cancer. Her husband Irving Perlitch died in 2008 from complications
of pneumonia.
Morgan Hill residents Jan and Irv Perlitch were purveyors of the American Dream, two people who were role models for the can-do spirit of the country.

Janice Perlitch, 79, died Jan. 6 after a brief battle with cancer. Her husband Irving Perlitch died in 2008 from complications of pneumonia.

Everything they did, they did big.

Julie Belanger said her mother was ahead of her time, a fiercely independent woman who did everything herself and worked alongside her husband in all his many ambitious endeavors.

The Perlitches will be most remembered locally for the infamous Flying Lady Restaurant that was open for about three decades, until 1994. Once the largest restaurant in the world – with the Guinness World Record title to prove it – the 187-seat restaurant featured a model airplane track overhanging the dining hall and was situated next to the Perlitches’ 18-hole golf course and an antique aircraft and car museum.

But, true to her independent nature, Jan Perlitch wasn’t interested in the restaurant that was named for her. She was more interested in running the adjacent gift shop where she sold souvenirs like model airplanes, “every kind of pencil sharpener you could imagine,” and silver Flying Lady flight jackets.

The restaurant closed in 1994, three years after the deck collapsed causing three injuries. Lawsuits swamped the family’s finances to the point where keeping the restaurant open was no longer viable, Belanger said.

Before opening the Flying Lady Restaurant Irving Perlitch grew his recreational vehicle company into the largest RV business in the world, Belanger said. The company was one of South County’s largest employers, and the family owned a corporate plane with its own pilot.

Jan Perlitch thought it would be a good idea to know how to land the plane in case something happened to the pilot, so she took flying lessons. She fell in love with flying, Belanger said.

“It was something she could do all by herself,” she said. “When you first take off, you escape gravity for just a few seconds, and no matter what was happening in your life it just feels like there’s no pressure at all on you. She could see what was going on all around her, and she liked the challenge.

Janice Perlitch is survived by her three children, Belanger and Michael Perlitch of Morgan Hill and Bruce Perlitch of Sunnyvale; and five grandchildren, Lacey Haines, 25; Niki Green, 21; Scott Perlitch, 24; Andrew Perlitch, 21 and Tevya Robbins, 30.

Services will be held at 2 p.m. Sunday in the drawing room at the Oak Hill Funeral Home in San Jose.

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