Don’t even try telling Filomena Tripp she can’t do something — chances are she’s already done it and is working on her next goal.

Jump out of a plane to celebrate her 51st birthday?


Write a book about her life to inspire others?

She recently checked that one off as well.

Born with three underdeveloped limbs, Tripp hopes to inspire others in her book, “Invisible Courage,” released locally late last year. She'll be sharing her story at a book signing at the Lakeville Library on Feb. 6.

“People don’t know what we go through. They see what’s here, right now, but they don’t know where I came from, or what I went through,” she said. “Basically, it’s to encourage them to get inspiration. If I can do it, anybody can.”

An independent living specialist with the Southeastern Center for Independent Living in Fall River, Tripp uses her one developed leg to drive herself all over Bristol County guiding clients with substance abuse, mental illness and physical disabilities through available resources.

Though her life has been far from easy, Tripp said all the obstacles and setbacks she faced made her stronger. About a year ago, she decided to write the story of her life working in conjunction with local writer/publishing consultant Janine Sullivan.

“She has defied the odds right from the start,” said Sullivan. “In a nutshell, Filomena’s whole life story is inspirational. She inspires people to do more than they believe they can do and to keep aiming for the next goal.”

Born in Sao Miguel, Azores in 1955, Tripp said at that time, kids with disabilities were kept at home with no services to help them. When she was born, the doctors told her mother she wasn’t expected to live 24 hours, she said. She was quickly baptized and doctors told her mother it would be better for the family if she didn’t live. But Tripp survived the night and her family took her home.

At that time in the Azores, there were few resources available for children with disabilities. At age 7, she was ready to go to school, but was refused because the school couldn’t accommodate her. Instead, her father paid for a tutor and Tripp said she dragged herself down the street to the tutor’s house.

She and her parents moved to New Bedford when she was 13 and even in this country, resources for those with disabilities were limited.

Tutored at home, Tripp graduated from high school 1981, the same year she got her driver’s license. Never listening to the limitations others set for her, Tripp moved out of her parents’ house despite their objections and into her first apartment in 1982. “I always wanted to go, go,” she said of the goals she set for herself.

She married a man with disabilities, but he died only a few years later in 1989, leaving her in a deep depression and struggling with alcoholism, she said.

“I went through a big, big storm,” said Tripp, recalling the dark days. “I cried out to God and he answered me.”

Though she did things to prove her abilities to others in the first half of her life, the dark days led to the realization that she needed to do things out of love for herself.

“What you see now, this smile is real. When I used to smile when I was young it was fake. I’m content with my life,” said Tripp.

Married now for 22 years to her second husband, James H. Tripp, she told him she wanted to go skydiving for her 50th birthday. Though he wasn’t able to arrange it in time for her 50th, Tripp didn’t give up on her goal, calling skydiving shops throughout the area. She found one in Lebanon, Maine that worked with people with disabilities and for a year, she kept calling to set up a jump by her 51st birthday.

When the plane door opened that day she looked down and said, “What did I get into.”

The best part, she recalled, was when the parachute opened and she could look around at the land below her. And when they reached the ground, she checked off another goal on her list. “I screamed, ‘I did it. I did it,’” she recalled.

Her next goal: riding a motorcycle. “If the book does well, I’ll get a motorcycle. I’ll drive it on 195 with my cat,” she said, laughing.

To learn more about Tripp, visit