A tribute to Jim Bates by Roseanne Longo

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Yesterday, Saturday, August 11, 2007, Connecticut Parachutists in Ellington, CT held a celebration of life service for Jim Bates. To say it was well attended would be an understatement as family, friends, and many vintage jumpers filled the small skydiving club that Jim and Marge have worked to support for over 35 years. Marge commented how much it meant to her to see the show of support. Even Jim’s cardiologist came out for the event.

At approximately 4:30 pm, a dive was organized by Billy Beaudreau to release Jim’s ashes above the drop zone. Many joked of what strings Jim had pulled to secure an absolutely perfectly blue sky and very light winds for this special day. In the week prior, Billy had shared with many of us his special connection with Jim. It seems Jim came to his school to introduce skydiving and encourage people to make a jump. Jim Bates questioned how many people wanted to make 1 jump, gaining a quick raised hand from all. Then he asked how many wanted to make 1000 jumps, leaving the students in thought as Jim clarified that nobody initially plans on making 1000 jumps. Over 5000 jumps later, and now having two sons strong in the sport, Billy still joked with Jim, telling him “It’s all YOUR fault”. Jim would just smile. Armed with that story, and many others, Billy gathered the list of jumpers whom Jim, himself had asked to be a part of this honorable event. Those who were no longer active, were offered a seat in the plane, but kindly declined. It was an honor for myself to be added to this list by Marge. Billy Beaudreau, Bob Smith, Howard Burling, Randy Thompson, John Spear, Mike Hennessey, and Roseanne Longo quickly dirt dived and headed to the plane. Paul Peckham, of Orange, MA, would exit after us, jumping the American flag, which would be key in the military honors to follow. Jim “Oke” and Ryan “ripcord” would be capturing this dive with videos and stills from multiple angles.

It’s skydiving, so there were jokes and jabs on the ride to altitude as many people’s minds were recounting memories. Paul passed around Jim’s USPA card – current, of course, through 2008. The dive went as planned, with Billy releasing Jim’s ashes into freefall around 6000 feet, then deploying himself. The others made a star, then tracked away and deployed. A large crowed gathered by the tuffet to offer applause as the skilled accuracy jumpers did their landings. Paul’s approach trailing the American flag was a beautiful sight. It captured the eyes of all on the ground, and was followed by a precise landing, where he carefully guiding the flag into the hands of one of Jim’s sons.

The crowd made their way towards the manifest area, as the military honors took place. Even when played softly, taps is a powerful piece. Dry eyes diminished as we watched the flag carefully be folded and presented to Marge with the following words, only audible for Marge to hear. “As a representative of the United States Army, It is my high privilege to present to you this flag. Let it be a symbol of the grateful appreciation our nation feels for the distinguished service rendered to our country and our flag by your loved one.” It was then that you could see Marge’s shoulders collapse, knowing she has carried out Jim’s final wish, and that he is a part of our Blue Skies forever.

The celebration of life continued past sunset with a plentiful BBQ and abundant stories shared amongst people. Marge was proudly showing people three colorful photos of the ash release dive that were already presented to her by Jim “Oke”

Thank you to those who attended, who sent well wishes, for the jumpers who were patient while this event took place, to the CPI staff and volunteers who worked hard at the planning of the event and cooking for the BBQ that followed. Thanks to Billy and the group that jumped, especially Paul and our two videographers. A very special thanks to Jim Bates for the blue skies and light winds.

As a side note, Marge will be having surgery on Tuesday, her birthday. This is a second attempt to repair the hole in the macula of her eye. She will have limited access to email, etc, as she once again needs to stay in a face to the ground position for at least 10 days.

I apologize for any omissions or oversights in the recounting of this event. Any omissions or incorrect recounts are purely accidental.


Roseanne Longo
Mike Turoff
Instructor Examiner, USPA
Co-author of Parachuting, The Skydiver's Handbook

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