For many, retirement is a time to slow down and take it easy.
But not for former President George HW Bush, for whom retirement just seemed to enhance his sense of adventure.
Bush would have been 95 today, an occasion he may have marked in his favorite way — by strapping on his parachute and leaping from thousands of feet in the sky.
The first time Bush jumped from a plane, according to the Bush presidential library, was in 1944 while serving in the US Navy.
His fighter plane was gunned down and he parachuted into the Pacific Ocean. Bush was rescued by a US submarine, but his two crewmates didn’t make it.
Bush reportedly pledged to himself while in the military that he would one day jump out of a plane for fun. After leaving the White House he fulfilled the wish for the first time in 1997, parachuting from a plane as part of an Army demonstration.
In 1999 he again took to the skies — this time to mark his 75th birthday. The 41st president parachuted solo near his presidential library and museum in College Station, Texas.
In 2018 Retired Army General Hugh Shelton, who jumped with Bush, said that the former president could have died that day, when he risked becoming entangled in his parachute.
“He just kept right on tumbling and he went right through the — right through the level, the 5,000-foot level, and went right on down. Until finally, just short of when the activation device would go off, he’d stabilized,” Shelton told Military.com.
Undeterred, five years later Bush marked his birthday with another skydive.
Though the president again planned to jump alone, windy and cloudy conditions meant a tandem jump was necessary. His partner for the skydive was a member of the Golden Knights, the US Army’s official team for parachute demonstrations, with whom Bush had jumped in 1997.
In 2007 he was again leaping from a plane, this time to mark the re-dedication of his presidential museum.
The location for his 85th birthday skydive was the family seafront compound in Kennebunkport, Maine.
Bush had a message for other senior citizens after the successful jump.
“Just because you’re an old guy, you don’t have to sit around drooling in the corner,” he said. “Get out and do something. Get out and enjoy life.”
By the time the president’s 90th birthday had arrived in 2005, illness had left Bush wheelchair-bound. But he did not let the disability stop him, and engaged in a successful tandem skydive at Kennebunkport.
“It’s a wonderful day in Maine — in fact, nice enough for a parachute jump,”the former president tweeted the morning of the jump.
He was greeted after the jump with a kiss from his wife, Barbara, and a hug from his son, former President George W Bush.
Though ailing, Bush was determined to keep the tradition going.
At the age of 88 he told granddaughter Jenna Hagen Bush that he had “one more left in me” — a prediction that came true when he jumped again in 2014.
The 95th birthday jump never came to be — but perhaps not for want of ambition.
After Bush died, retired Golden Knight sergeant Mike Elliott, who had jumped with Bush in the past, said the former president was still considering a jump in 2019.
He told the North Carolina news channel ABC11: “I know he said he wanted to jump on his 95th birthday. I was hoping he’d live to jump on his 95th, but he’s left a lot of great memories for me.
“He was just a great American icon, and, to me, a superman.”
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