Hod Sanders

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I'm sorry to say that Gary "Hod" Sanders has passed away. He was only 63 years old. A heart attack is what took him. Hod had a great family and many friends. He'll be missed by all who knew him well.

I don't know of all Hod's accomplishments. Maybe someone else can add to this. I do know that Hod was one of the greats in the world of skydiving. He was a World Champion skydiver. ( A member of the team "Mirror Image"). He jumped into the Olympics in Korea. (Remember those skydivers over Korea, who formed the rings on the cover of Life Magazine.) Hod, B.J. Worth, and Jerry Bird were in that picture.

Hod was a member of the World Team and was on more than one world record big way, organized by B.J. You would never know that Hod was the great skydiver that he was. He was friendly, down to earth, and he never bragged about anything, ever. I loved jumping at his drop zone. You always felt welcome jumping there.

Hod owned Skydive Montana in Ronan. He had over 10,000 jumps. I once asked Hod how many malfunctions he had. It was well over twenty.

Hod and I started jumping the same year back in 1973. That was at the U. of M. in Missoula, Montana. Hod said that he watched some skydivers jump into the University Oval one day, and he told himself he was going to skydive.

Hod was working on the green chain, in a saw mill, in Missoula, when I first met him. He'd jump during the day, and work nights at the mill. Our first jump course was $50, and that included your first static line jump. Our club, The Silvertip Skydivers, was short on jumpers, so it wasn't long before we were trying big ways out of a Beech or DC-3. We'd rent big aircraft from the smokejumpers back then, for cheap. A big way might have been an 8-way star.

Hod was friends with Greg and Steve Nardi. I know he jumped with them at Roundup Montana. Later Hod , B.J., and Jeff Frangos went down to Arizona to jump.

I saw Hod about a year ago. He was the picture of health. He was training up some tandem students. He took time to hug an old friend and wished me the best. Hod used to say that one day he would quit skydiving. I just wish it wasn't like this. I know his wife Tina will miss him terribly.

So long, Hod! I wish we could have made just one more jump together......

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Hod had one of the nicest funerals, that I've ever been to. At one point the preacher asked those who had jumped with Hod to stand up. About half the people in the church stood up. That added up to a lot of jumpers.

B.J. knew Hod the best and he told numerous stories about him. Hod was a natural at skydiving. On Hod's first jump, an emergency chute opened in the plane with an open door. I heard that story many years ago. I think it was B.J's belly reserve. He was right next to the door jumpmastering.....Somehow they managed to keep the canopy inside the plane and they landed. Ten minutes later Hod was back in the air. He did a perfect job on his first static line, even after all that drama.

B.J. moved to the Gulch, (Casa Grande) in the mid 70's. Most of the world's great skydivers were there, during that time. B.J. telephoned Hod, back in Montana to tell him the news. Hod was so jealous that he promptly quit college and drove to Arizona to be with B.J. Hod was a natural at skydiving. B.J. said he never messed up and he could fly like a bird.

One day Hod reported to B. J. that he had actually talked to the great Jerry Bird. He was very excited to be able to do that. Later Jerry Bird became team mates with Hod and B.J. Before long Hod became famous too, but you'd never know it to talk to him. Hod would talk to anyone and his friendly nature never changed.

Hod had eleven thousand and thirty- four jumps when he died. He was a three time World Champion. Jumping was his life. What made Hod so fun to jump with, was his great, cheerful attitude. Everyone liked him.

Not everyone could come to the funeral. B.J. read about forty e-mails from former team mates and friends from all over the world.

I forgot to mention that Hod was on the United States Navy Parachute team. For a while he and Tina were living in a tent, on the drop zone at Perris. B.J. was always calling Hod off, from his home and family to go some place to jump. That inacluded world record big-ways in Thailand. Tina put up with it, because it was so important to Hod.

Hod named his first born son B.J. Hod's family and friends will miss him terribly...... Hod and Tina's son Jake said that his dad may have been a success at skydiving, but he was an even bigger success at being a Dad and Grandpa. No matter what happened, Hod's family knew that he loved them.

There weren't many dry eyes after listening to all that. What a loss!

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Even without the service, that was a wonderful obituary for someone who was clearly a nice guy. Thanks for writing it

Wendy P.
There is nothing more dangerous than breaking a basic safety rule and getting away with it. It removes fear of the consequences and builds false confidence. (tbrown)

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