Lanterns

Jacquline Yvonne Bulger

October 22, 1924 ~ January 26, 2022 (age 97)

Obituary

Bobby Bulger of Dallas, Texas, a woman who broke gender barriers and glass ceilings in the travel industry, has died in Louisville, Colorado at the age of 97. As Bobby herself said it, she “covered the world” – all seven continents – from the Arctic Circle to Antarctica, many times.

Born Jacquline Yvonne Armstrong in 1924, she grew up in El Dorado, Arkansas, during that town’s oil boom. She was known to her classmates as “Yvonne,” but her family and close friends always called her “Bobby,” a name her older sister Lucille used when she was trying to say “baby.” She watched the boomtown turn to ghost town, losing more than half of its 1925 population of nearly 30,000 during the Great Depression, and then gear back up as WWII brought industry and soldiers to town.

Bobby graduated from El Dorado High School in the spring of 1943, at the age of 17, and moved to Dallas to live with her aunt and uncle, and to work and take classes at Sacks Secretarial School. That summer, her uncle Dudley Cox helped her secure a position as a stewardess with Braniff Airlines, which had recently set up a new base at Dallas’ Love Field.

When somebody at Braniff realized Bobby, at 17, was still too young to be a stewardess, she recalled, “I told them, ‘Hey, look, I just quit school and two jobs for this position, so you better find something for me to do!’ So, they handed me a camera, which I had no idea how to use, and put me in the publicity department.” Bobby began work with Braniff as a stenographer to Al Anderson in the Advertising department. Under his guidance, she learned the fundamentals of Speedgraphic camera operations and news-story writing. She also ended up on the other side of the camera from time to time, ironically modelling as a stewardess in some of Braniff’s ads.

In 1944, she became assistant editor of the company’s in-flight magazine then called the B-Liner and was promoted to editor in 1946. Over her four years with Braniff, she became a familiar face. As the publication wrote when her resignation became effective two days before her wedding: “She was hailed by many with a grin and, ‘Howdy, Bobby,’ as she strode about the base with a camera in hand and a satchel full of flash bulbs, pausing occasionally in various departments to pencil notes on a story or to snap a few pictures. And many were the movie and other nationally known dignitaries to stand before her camera lens at Love Field as they deplaned.”

In 1947, Bobby married James R. Bulger, a celebrated war hero who served in the South Pacific and was reported to be the first American to set foot in post-War Japan (ahead of General MacArthur). After she left Braniff Airlines, she spent the next 15 years focused on being a homemaker, caring for her dogs, and moving with her husband’s business to Tennessee, Oklahoma and Houston. In 1962, the couple returned to Dallas and, to help pay for a new home in Northwest Dallas, Bobby went to work for the American Express travel office in Dallas as a travel agent, before being promoted to manager of the NorthPark American Express travel office, which she opened.

Looking around, Bobby recalled, she saw many companies offering incentives to employees who performed well. “Companies were giving away watches, appliances and cars to people who exceeded their sales quotas, but nobody was doing anything with travel,” she said. Bobby pitched the idea of developing a travel incentive program. After Ross Perot bought the travel package for Electronic Data Systems, Bobby was promoted to Director of Group and Incentive Travel. She found herself doing things that, at the time, nobody else had tried. “I once booked an entire cruise ship,” she said. “The ship’s owner thought I was crazy. Nobody had ever done that.” She also took the American Bar Association to
London, and booked — "all of it, and Princess Anne” – for a week.

Incentive travel took off, and Bobby traveled the world, operating hundreds of trips ranging from groups of 40 up to 1800 people for Fortune 500 companies. Although AmEx suggested she move to New York, Bobby stayed in Dallas because it was home. She became known in the industry as a leading authority in international travel and began conducting trainings and lectures for industry professionals in countries from South Africa and Russia to Indonesia and Hong Kong that wanted to attract and serve American tourists. At times, she surprised her hosts with her gender. “When they heard the name Bobby, they expected a man,” she said. “Boy, were they surprised when I walked off the plane.”

Later in life, she was often asked what her favorite country was, and her response was usually, “all of them.” When pressed, she always said Italy. And then, Croatia. The place that had the strongest hold on her heart, however, was Dallas. She was sad to see it grow and change over the century, but it was home. And for a girl who “covered the world,” home was a sanctuary.

Bobby’s marriage ended in 1974, though she stayed close with her ex-husband’s family and continued to be in touch with him until he died in 2002. She remained with American Express for 29 years before opening her own company, Bobby Bulger Travel Concepts, Inc., in 1991. Bobby continued to work and travel the world until just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Her final trip abroad was to Scotland in 2017, where she took a group to visit an interesting archeological site. She booked her final trip for a client in 2021, at the age of 96. After two years of seclusion during the pandemic and feeling that her business “wasn’t ever going to bounce back,” Bobby moved to Louisville, Colorado, to be closer to family. While the move was hard, she always kept her sense of humor and her soft spot for a lonely soul in need of a friend.

She was preceded in death by her parents, Arthur John Armstrong and Christine Greer Armstrong of El Dorado; her aunt Maybelle Greer Cox (Dudley) of Dallas; and her older sister Ada Lucille Armstrong Purvis. She is survived by her younger brother Arthur John Armstrong, Jr (Anne) of McLean, Virginia.; her niece K. Reid Armstrong (Kevin) of Louisville, Colorado, and nephew Ross Armstrong (Nicole) of Burlingame, California; her great nieces and nephews Sawyer, Arden, Kieran, Quinn and Kingston; and her cat Buster, whom she rescued and took inside when coyotes started multiplying near her East Dallas home. Buster stayed loyally and vigilantly with Bobby until she peacefully passed away in her sleep on Jan. 26, 2022.

Heritage Funeral & Cremation Services of Lafayette is handling cremation arrangements.

 

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