Monday, July 14, 2008

Parachute Please

Take a chance, go ahead jump but don’t forget the parachute. Just read this article about an old skydiver. Jumping into a new career can be scary too. Getting the training and support you need is like checking you parachute. Jump without preparation and you may die. The parachute doesn’t guarantee a perfect landing but is great assurance that you will most likely make it.

Fulfilling a dream: 89 year old goes skydiving

Journal Times
YORKVILLE — In his long and varied life, Paul Rusch has seen and experienced some amazing events.

In his younger days, he helped a friend run an airport near the Texas/Mexico border. During World War II, he met former President Eisenhower and General George S. Patton .

He then had a long work life in engineering and human resources.

But he never was able to go skydiving — until Sunday.

Rusch, who will turn 90 in December, was the oldest of approximately 50 veterans who took up Skydive Midwest’s offer to provide free jumps on Saturday and Sunday to disabled veterans and discounted jumps to non-disabled veterans.

Cybil Rose, publicist for Skydive Midwest, said that the veterans who participated ranged in age from a man in his 20s injured by an explosive device in Iraq, to veterans who use wheelchairs from the VA hospital in Milwaukee to a 61-year-old veteran from the Vietnam era.

Rose said Skydive Midwest proprietor Keith George, a former Marine, hosted this weekend’s “Tandem for Troops” event as a way to thank troops from all generations for serving the nation. Rose said some of the jump proceeds from the weekend, as well as proceeds from a raffle and food sales, will be donated to the Rehab Institute of Chicago, where work is under way with therapy and prosthetics for injured veterans.

It was Rusch’s daughter-in-law, Adrienne, who signed up her father-in-law for the jump, unbeknownst to him.

“I called right away and gave a brief history of my father-in law and asked if he would qualify,” Adrienne said. “She (the reservation taker) asked ‘does he know you’re doing this?’ and I said ‘no’ and she said ‘well, if anything changes, let us know.’ ”

Rusch was happy when he learned that he was going to jump. It fulfilled a longtime wish.

Although he flew in his younger days, a degree of color blindness kept him from air duty during World War II. He stayed on the ground as an engineering officer.

But while he was stationed in England during the war, he saw paratroopers preparing for their jumps into mainland Europe.

After the war, Rusch hoped to resume his flying, but economics and family responsibilities kept that from happening.

“When I learned to fly (in the 1930s) it was $5 an hour. After the war it was $60 an hour,” Rusch said. “I needed about 15 to 20 hours and I didn’t have that kind of money. As a matter of fact, I didn’t have any money, so I went to school instead.”

Using the GI Bill, Rusch got a degree in personnel management from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

He worked as an engineer and in held human resources until he retired from full time work 25 years ago.

Rusch looked anything but nervous before his jump Sunday.
“I don’t think it’s a big deal, but everyone else does,” Rusch said.

After a few hours of waiting, Rusch made his way with other jumpers to the plane.

A few minutes later he was among the several small dots that were parachutes descending to the ground. With strong gusty winds blowing, Rusch and his tandem jumper made it to the ground in a not-so-soft landing. But he came out unscathed.

“Oh man, I have to catch my breath,” Rusch said. “It’s harder work than it looks.”

Noting the general age of the jumpers at Skydive Midwest on Sunday — men and women mostly in their 20s and 30s — Rusch urged people to pursue their dreams.

“Do something when you’re young,” he said. “The probability to do something like this when you’re older is less and less.”

With family members planning a jump to celebrate grandson Joshua’s 18th birthday in April, would he do it again?

Rusch on Sunday was not so sure. But he’s happy his youngest grandson, Jacob, 11, is showing an early interest in aviation, even considering joining the Civil Air Patrol, his mom, Adrienne, said.

Moving forward,

Jeff Roach

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