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Gerry LaLonde -- Obit

 


Premier quade  (D 22635)
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Aug 7, 2003, 10:28 AM
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Gerry LaLonde -- Obit Can't Post

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Skydiving pioneer Gerry LaLonde dies

By Meghan Meyer, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Thursday, August 7, 2003

Gerry LaLonde did not set out to topple the country's skydiving champions from their perch at the pinnacle of their sport.

When he and his buddies started jumping out of planes in the late 1960s, skydiving was not a sport. They were just a bunch of guys with a crop duster and some parachutes messing around in Caloosa Park.

Mr. LaLonde died of cancer Monday at his home in Boynton Beach. He was 62.

To family and friends, he will be remembered not as a crazy guy who jumped out of a small plane, but as a pioneer in what is now a flourishing industry.

Before anyone knew what skydiving was, Mr. LaLonde and his buddies experimented with formations, creating eight-, 10- and 12-man stars by holding hands as they fell.

Their penchant for plummeting earthward won the Delray Aerial Circus Ten Man Star Team the southeast conference championship in 1975 and earned them a trip to the national championships in Tahlequah, Okla., in 1973. Mr. LaLonde was the team captain.

"We all grew up in the drop zone," said his daughter, Melissa LaLonde, 33. "I knew how to pack a parachute when I was 6 years old."

Mr. LaLonde owned Delray Glass & Mirror for 30 years, the store his father opened a half-century ago on Northeast Third Street and Northeast Third Avenue.

He was born in Ohio and moved to Delray Beach with his family at age 6. The LaLondes moved just outside the city limits to Boynton Beach 29 years ago when their family outgrew their home.

They tore down the Pineapple Grove store last year and moved it to a new location on Southwest 10th Street. It's still a community institution. Mr. LaLonde's wife of 42 years, Susi LaLonde, 61, said she and her children will continue to run the business.

Mr. LaLonde's handiwork lives on in his home, filled with mirrors, and in the shop and restaurant windows of Atlantic Avenue.

"He was just a very congenial man," Susi LaLonde said. "He was very, very bright and could quote the city codes from memory. He did a good job and stood behind his work. He knew everyone in town."

Mr. LaLonde was among the vestiges of small-town Delray Beach. When the family began making calls to tell friends of his death Monday, many had already heard through the grapevine that has flourished even as the town grew.

A memorial service is scheduled for 7-9 tonight at Lorne & Sons Funeral Home, 745 NE Sixth Ave., Delray Beach. Contributions may be made to Hospice by the Sea or the American Cancer Society.

Mr. LaLonde asked that skydivers scatter his ashes over the ocean.


Galen  (A License)

Aug 13, 2003, 7:37 PM
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Re: [quade] Gerry LaLonde -- Obit [In reply to] Can't Post

Any idea where he started jumping? Is it an existing DZ or has it come to pass.

Can't help but wonder what it would have been like back then. Someone posted not too long ago about jumping at a DZ in Indiantown, FL where the only rule was that you couldn't throw your empty beer can out of the plane on the ride to altitude.


SkydiverRick  (D 13360)

Aug 14, 2003, 7:11 AM
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Re: [Galen] Gerry LaLonde -- Obit [In reply to] Can't Post

In reply to:
Any idea where he started jumping? Is it an existing DZ or has it come to pass.

Can't help but wonder what it would have been like back then. Someone posted not too long ago about jumping at a DZ in Indiantown, FL where the only rule was that you couldn't throw your empty beer can out of the plane on the ride to altitude.

I started my jumping in Indiantown (1981). It was a nice place to jump. 7000' grass runway. South Florida Parachutes Inc. (SFPI) was owned by Paul Poppenhager. He's retired from the dz business, but I stay in touch with him. I used to be married to his daughter so I spent some time with him. He has some good stories from the real "old days". If you PM me I'll get a message to him.
By the way, the rule was cans only so that when you threw them from the plane it wouldn't cause any damage.


(This post was edited by SkydiverRick on Aug 14, 2003, 7:13 AM)


JohnRich  (D License)

Aug 19, 2003, 4:04 PM
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Re: [Galen] Gerry LaLonde -- Obit [In reply to] Can't Post

In reply to:
Someone posted not too long ago about jumping at a DZ in Indiantown, FL where the only rule was that you couldn't throw your empty beer can out of the plane on the ride to altitude.

That's a vicious lie! I saw many a beer can thrown out on the ride to altitude. The orange groves around the remote airport must have had a lot of such scattered litter. I sometimes wondered if the grove foreman saw the beer cans and accused his tree-pickers of drinking while working... <grin>

I jumped with Jack during those Indiantown days, and sure had a blast with him, and the rest of the crowd there, before moving away to Texas. He's a great guy, and a lot of laughs to hang out with. I am sorry to hear of his passing.

The last time I saw him was about two or three years ago when the Nationals were held at Z-Hills, and Jack came up to do the accuracy competition. He had a little difficulty walking because of getting the bends while scuba-diving, but he could still kick my butt in parachute accuracy.

John Rich


SkydiverRick  (D 13360)

Aug 19, 2003, 7:29 PM
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Re: [JohnRich] Gerry LaLonde -- Obit [In reply to] Can't Post

 
I jumped with Jack during those Indiantown days, and sure had a blast with him, and the rest of the crowd there, before moving away to Texas. He's a great guy, and a lot of laughs to hang out with. I am sorry to hear of his passing.I saw the name Gerry and thought he must be a relative of some sort. I didn't realize that it was Jack. I did my first 8-way with Jack and the other members of the "A team". They said just fall and we'll do the rest. The only problem was getting them to let go at 3500. They were always going for a few more points.


RonD1120  (D 1120)

Aug 23, 2003, 5:26 AM
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Re: [quade] Gerry LaLonde -- Obit [In reply to] Can't Post

This is a shock. I knew him as Jack LaLonde and jumped in many a POPS meet with him. One fine fellow. Always laughing even after the scuba diving accident. He was supposed to be paralyzed from the waist down but he would not accept the diagnosis. Quite a man in my book.Frown


RonD1120  (D 1120)

Aug 24, 2003, 11:44 PM
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Re: [SkydiverRick] Gerry LaLonde -- Obit [In reply to] Can't Post

In reply to:
I jumped with Jack during those Indiantown days, and sure had a blast with him, and the rest of the crowd there, before moving away to Texas. He's a great guy, and a lot of laughs to hang out with. I am sorry to hear of his passing.
I saw the name Gerry and thought he must be a relative of some sort. I didn't realize that it was Jack. I did my first 8-way with Jack and the other members of the "A team". They said just fall and we'll do the rest. The only problem was getting them to let go at 3500. They were always going for a few more points.
My second post here. I received an Email from Ski Chmielewski advising me that Gerry was Jack's brother.


JohnRich  (D License)

Sep 5, 2003, 2:55 PM
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Re: [RonD1120] Gerry LaLonde -- Obit [In reply to] Can't Post

In reply to:
In reply to:
I received an Email from Ski Chmielewski advising me that Gerry was Jack's brother.

Well, I'm glad to hear that Gerry and Jack are not the same person, and that Jack is still around. Thanks for clearing that up. Sorry for assuming otherwise. My deepest respects to Jack for the loss of his brother.



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