An exceptional story appeared a few days ago in our local Austin paper that sounds unreal but I believe it to be true. I trust the writer, Pam LeBlanc, and the paper. A bit like Will Rogers, “All I know is what I read in the papers.”
On Thursday, September 20, 2012, Jack Green, age 98, and eight of his younger Querencia Barton Creek retirement community friends did their first-ever skydiving–from 11,000 feet–near the little town of Fentress, Texas, about 40 miles south of Austin. The youngest of those amazing friends was 76. Jack was so excited after landing that he declared he would jump again when he turns 100 in just two years.
Two of Jack’s young friends, Dee Massad, 83, and Cindi Jackson, 80, made the jump with the group. Dee reasoned that she “had nothing to lose,” even though she described her nature as very cautious. Cindi wanted to add some excitement to her life. It appears now that Dee gained a lot—things such as bragging rights—and that Cindi found the excitement she craved.
The only reported mishap was a minor scrape on an 88-year-old’s arm.
A hero in this story is the executive director of the retirement community, Ross Dickmann, who encouraged the jump and jumped along with his charges. He did his due diligence by having the jumpers sign waivers, then he let them cut loose in a way that many administrators would be afraid to do. My hat is off to him.
My wife Ellen and I are in a continuing education program called LAMP at the University of Texas. One of the university’s junior administrators, after overseeing our members’ signing waivers to participate in the program, was reportedly worried sick a few months ago that some members of our group had gone on a trip to a ranch where they stood near horses! What if a horse kicked one of them? What if a higher-up criticized him if someone on that trip got hurt? Does that guy not know he’s in Texas? Did he not know the members on that outing were in greater danger while riding to the ranch in their cars? That he was in greater danger driving to work than those friends of ours who “stood near horses?”
So Ross Dickmann is a hero in my book. He strikes me as a good leader, someone who does not put limits on older people, but rather helps them find their wings and use them. I bet he wouldn’t mind a bit if his skydivers stood near some horses. In fact, some of them may still ride horses.
I’m buoyed by the incredible skydiving story about Jack Green, Dee Massad, Cindi Jackson, and their fellow leapers. I’m grateful to Pam LeBlanc of the Austin American-Statesman for writing the story, to Ross Dickmann for making it happen, and to the group of nine senior skydivers who raised the hopes of all of us.
Finally, I had never seriously considered skydiving. Now I’m thinking I might do it—when I get old enough.