80-year-old jumps again

Janice Parker first tempted fate 20 years ago when she made a tandem skydive jump during the Dollar Daze Couch Freak Boogie at the Fort Dodge Regional Airport. Still feeling gutsy, she decided to return to the annual event Saturday morning and do it again.

“I figured if George H.W. Bush could do it for his 80th birthday, I could too,” she said. “I like to be daring.”

Parker was one of 17 people signed up for tandem jumps who were delayed in their pursuit of excitement by the cloudy weather that hung over the airport for six hours. When blue skies finally broke, the novice jumpers were harnessed up and led in small groups to the loading area where they boarded a plane and were strapped to a certified instructor.

Relieved to be one of the first to go, Parker was all smiles. She isn’t one to be delayed or inactive.

“Get off that couch,” she said. “Don’t just sit around and be a couch potato.”

Staying active is the key to enjoying life, Parker said, and the activities don’t always need to be crazy ones like her skydiving adventures or the time she rode a bicycle across the United States. She has a few tamer pursuits, such as quilting, painting and woodcarving.

Another tip in getting the most out of life is to accept that things aren’t always perfect, Parker said. Rather it’s about accepting the negative, yet remaining focused on the positive. Her jump is one such example. Certain elements of it don’t appeal to her, but they are not going to stop her from doing what she wants to do.

“I don’t like the free fall,” she said. “That’s everybody’s favorite part, but I don’t like loud noises or the wind. And guess what – that’s free fall.”

In her first jump, Parker was with the husband-and-wife pastor team from her church in Bode. The trio bolstered and encouraged each other to go through with the endeavor right up until they were boarding the plane. That’s when Parker had a thought she had to share.

“I said to them, ‘If we die in this, I wonder who will do our funeral.'”

The comment got a laugh, she said, but they never answered her. Instead, they all successfully jumped, and the quandry was forgotten in the rush of adrenaline from the canopy flight. It was that rush that hooked her tandem instructor Greg Nore, of Fort Dodge, on jumping.

“I did my first tandem jump here 10 years ago,” he said. “I haven’t quit since.”

Nore has racked up nearly 2,000 skydives and more than 500 of those have been tandem jumps where a student like Parker is attached to him and under his direct supervision. Together the two of them circled around the airport while Parker waved at the crowd on the ground before softly landing on the grass in front of the public viewing area.

“Whew,” she said, giving a thumbs up. “Awesome.”