90-year-old ex-president makes parachute jump

George H.W. Bush celebrates his 90th birthday Thursday
Associated Press
Jun 12, 2014

Former President George H.W. Bush celebrated his 90th birthday on Thursday by making a tandem parachute jump near his summer home in coastal Maine, fulfilling a goal he made five years ago after a similar jump even though he can no longer use his legs.

The nation's 41st president jumped from a helicopter at about 6,000 feet while harnessed to retired Sgt. 1st Class Mike Elliott, a former member of the Golden Knights, the Army's parachute team. Elliott guided Bush to a safe landing on his 85th birthday.

"That's what he wanted for his 90th birthday and that's what he got," Elliott said. "It's a very good feeling to be involved and be able to turn back time."

The helicopter picked up Bush outside his Kennebunkport home. His family transported him from his wheelchair to the chopper, singing "Happy Birthday" before it took off.

Bush floated to the ground under a red, white and blue parachute and landed on the lawn of St. Ann's Episcopal Church, where several hundred friends and family had gathered. Elliott said Bush's foot got tangled up underneath him during the landing, causing him to tumble forward onto the ground. A spokesman later said the former president was feeling "fine."

"He had a big smile for the crowd. You could tell he was exhilarated," said Diana Untermeyer, a family friend from Houston. "He's an amazing man. This is just another sign of that. I think that like most of America, our family loves him to pieces. It was just a real thrill to do this again."

Bush was greeted with a kiss from his wife, Barbara, and a hug from his son, former President George W. Bush. The family left without talking to reporters.

Outside the grounds, several hundred people gathered on the rocky shore to get a glimpse of the jump.

"He has a lot of courage. We need more like him," said David Morris, 79, of Melrose, Massachusetts.

Said Carol Schierl, 75, of Green Bay, Wisconsin: "I think it's wonderful. I hope I can jump out of a plane at 90."

The jump was kept secret until Thursday morning partly to give Bush the option of bagging it because of less-than-ideal weather, including a low ceiling of clouds.

"It's vintage George Bush," spokesman Jim McGrath said. "It's that passion for life. It's wanting to set a goal, wanting to achieve it. I'm sure part of it is sending a message to others that even in your retirement years you can still find challenges."

Bush had to overcome the objections of his doctor, Barbara and the rest of the family before making the latest jump, Elliott said. Eventually, he won them over.

"He's smiling like a kid in kindergarten," Elliott said following the jump.

Bush's jump was indicative of a trend among people of advanced age, said Lenard Kaye, director of the Maine Center on Aging at the University of Maine. More and more seniors are participating in extreme physical activities deep into their golden years, a trend that will pick up steam as more baby boomers retire, he said.

Such "extreme acts of adventure" are becoming a part of many seniors' lives but they need to be mindful that their bones are more fragile than when they were younger, he said.

During his years in the White House, Bush was known for jogging, tennis and fast-paced golf. The former president, who signed the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990, now uses a wheelchair or scooter because of a form of parkinsonism that has robbed him of use of his legs.

The first time Bush jumped from an airplane was when his plane was shot down in World War II over the Pacific. He marked his 75th, 80th and 85th birthdays by skydiving. Thursday was his eighth jump.

Other birthday festivities included a private dinner with more than 200 relatives and friends, including some from his White House days: press secretary Marlin Fitzwater, White House counsel Boyden Gray and political director Ron Kaufman, McGrath said. His children, including George W. Bush and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, will be there, McGrath said.

Kennebunkport is a special place for the president. As a boy, he visited the family home at Walker's Point every summer, except during World War II. The retreat was later dubbed his "summer White House."

Comments

Dinghy Gal

You go George!

looking around

Good thing he has good health insurance....../sarcasm

GoBigLex2001

You would never see the current President do anything like that. What a wuss.

The Big Dog's back

Yep, the current President has brains, something the bushes lack.

Dr. Information

Obama would be bubble wrapped with a helmet, knee and elbow pads on with 20 parachutes on all attached to him and different jumpers and landing on a custom made 2 million dollar inflatable landing pad.

And he would claim he is tough. lol.

Pete

And if, by the slightest chance after all those precautions, he twisted an ankle, he'd blame Bush.

coasterfan

Nah...we only blame Bush for things Bush screwed up. And that list is a very long one.

Bush Sr. skydiving is a visual metaphor for what the US economy did under his son.

I don't find Obama to be weak, because I don't consider it a weakness to try diplomacy first. I know, I know... Republicans prefer their presidents to be impulsive warmongers, but personally, I'm glad that Obama was able to resolve the Syria and Ukraine situations to our benefit without a single US life lost.

Beats the heck out of getting us into 2 unpopular and unfunded wars in Iraq/Afghanistan that cost us trillions of dollars and thousands of lives. I'll take "weakness" any day, if the only other choice is "strong, stupid aggression" a la Bush.

Contango

Re: "unfunded wars in Iraq/Afghanistan,"

You've yet to name for me one U.S. war that was fully funded.

The Big Dog's back

In 1968, a 10% surtax was imposed to pay for the Vietnam War, which raised revenue by about 1% of GDP. And there was conscription during both wars, which can be viewed as a kind of tax that was largely paid by the poor and middle class–young men from wealthy families largely escaped its effects through college deferments.
http://www.forbes.com/2009/11/25...

Now, don't ask again.

Contango

Re: "In 1968 (snip)"

So you approve of the war in 'Nam? Interesting.

LBJ and Nixon's 'guns and butter' policies started the spiral of Federal deficit spending and monetary inflation.

The Big Dog's back

Don't ask again.

Contango

Re: "Don't ask again."

If 'Nam was "fully funded," then why the Federal deficit spending?

Why did LBJ need to steal the assets in the Soc. Security trust fund?

Why did Pres. Nixon take the U.S. off the gold standard?

grumpy

Nowhere in that article did it say that the 10% surtax FULLY fund the war. No wonder you don't want to asked again, it would show you are wrong... again as Contango asked when one was fully funded. But I suppose in your mind partial funding is close enough cause you think there is no problem with deficit spending, when it is D's controlling the spending.

The Big Dog's back

Don't ask again.

Contango

Re: "I'm glad that Obama was able to resolve the Syria,"

There's evidence of Assad recently using chlorine gas.

Some 'resolution.'

http://thinkprogress.org/world/2...

freespeech1

Resolved Syria? Are you kidding? Look at whats going on there for gods sake. An entire new terror group has risen that even al quaida has denounced. You libs are unbelievable.

herbie_hancock

Resolved Syria and Ukraine? If by resolved you mean, did nothing except threaten and redact those threats, then yes he "resolved" them. Even though they are still going on...High five.

Contango

Pres. Obama skydiving?

We'd get a WH photo-op. Like the ONE picture of him photo shopped to make it look like he was firing a rifle. :)

http://www.washingtonpost.com/po...

Pete
The Big Dog's back

To bad he bailed on his crew mates in WWll, otherwise they may have survived.

Darwin's choice

You chit licker, please stop drinking from the urinal! It will not remove the taste of obama from your mouth.

looking around

Real men don't jump tandem, it's like riding biotch on a Harley!