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Woman, 90, skydives to prove age is just a number

By adminon - Read 974 times

WILSON -- Marni Evans literally "dropped in" for her 90th birthday party Saturday afternoon, jumping from an airplane cruising over her farm at 12,000 feet. She said she wanted to show her friends that age is just a state of mind, even when you're nearing the century mark.
Skydiving at 90

More than 100 well-wishers waiting in a pasture at Springhill Plantation craned their heads upward as a dot in the sky slowly became recognizable as the form of Evans and skydiving instructor Tom Tharp dangling from a red-and-white tandem parachute.

Scott Smith of Jackson and Keith Nielson of Lafayette, who followed Evans and Tharp from the plane, landed first, drawing "oohs" and "aahs" from the crowd for their flawless touchdowns.

A few seconds later, applause rippled around the pasture as the guests watched Evans and Tharp float to the ground.

The crowd rushed forward to capture on film and videotape the big smile lighting Evans' face while she wriggled out of her jumpsuit and gear.

"It went flawlessly. It was a super day and a super crew. I'm proud of all of them, especially my mom," said son Kirwin Ross, as he aimed his camera at the group.

"It's going to be like stepping on a pillow," Smith had predicted before the skydivers took off from the landing strip at Jackson. Except for Evans losing her balance when Tharp bumped into her, Smith's prediction was on the money.

Still, more than one person waiting in the audience was apprehensive.

"Some people were hoping it would rain so she wouldn't get hurt," guest Henry Chase said.

But the weather couldn't have been better.

Before climbing into the Cessna 210, Evans wisecracked with pilot Tom Allain of Baton Rouge and the others almost nonstop, but grew serious for a moment to explain the purpose of her adventure.

"The whole objective of this is to let these young people know that you don't have to get old just because you've been here a long time," Evans said.

"Stay active ... stay alive as long as you live," she said.

Evans is the oldest student Tharp has tutored in the sport of skydiving.

"I've jumped with an 84 (-year-old), so this is my record," he said during the flight preparations.

"She doesn't have to worry; this is my second jump," he joked.

As she donned her jumpsuit and harness, Evans told the group the jump would be a first, but not for wearing a parachute. She explained that she had strapped a parachute on all the time while learning to fly in her younger days.

Evans' exploits were a theme among the guests as they watched the plane make lazy circles in the sky to gain altitude.

They spoke of her athletic prowess, her earning many awards in Senior Olympics competitions, her volunteering to lead exercise classes at a nursing home and her arriving at her 80th birthday party in a helicopter.

Arriving for the party, Ann Reiley Jones held a sheet of paper in her hand.

"We were asked not to bring gifts, but I wanted to do something, so I wrote down 90 adjectives to describe Marni," Jones said.

"It wasn't hard. I thought of 10 more on the way over here."

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