Woman Skydives for 90th Birthday
Imagine turning 90 years old. Now imagine turning 90 years old and celebrating the occasion by jumping out of a plane.
Virginia "Ginger" Service did just that. And, as if that wasn't enough, she did it almost simultaneously with family members who jumped ahead of her to commemorate nine decades of an extraordinary life.
Service is what her nickname implies. Like the spice's bouquet, Service is warm, sweet and pungent. Indicative of the flavor of ginger, she is fiery, spicy and strong. Let's add that she likes to do things her way, and when she swayed just a little from following jumping protocol, landing became a little bumpier than her instructor would have liked to experience.
As a veteran of the armed forces, Service says she always had the desire to skydive. As a U.S. Navy WAVE, she had occasion to fly but it wasn't until many years down the road, when former president George H.W. Bush's skydiving feat and pictures of the event put Service in gear to do the same. Her adventurous side comes from having three brothers.
"All three were in the service, and I wasn't going to be left out," she says.
As a lieutenant, Service was in charge of paying the servicemen their wages in Key West, Fla. The men were going from one theater of the war to another.
"I felt like Santa Claus every day of the week," she says.
The skydiving event became a family affair. Her son, daughter and granddaughters took the dive to be on the ground with open arms. They were joined by dozens of others who welcomed her back on the ground in eastern North Carolina.
"I felt like a conquering hero coming home," she says.
"This is a lady who can out-walk me in Reservoir Park," says Brenda Esteves, arts and leisure coordinator at Pine Knoll of St. Joseph of the Pines. "I wasn't surprised when she announced her plans to skydive."
Service wasn't just along for the ride. According to Skydive Coastal Carolinas in Oak Island, tandem skydiving allows the first jumper to experience freefall from approximately two miles in the sky with the use of a parachute harness built for two people. >Jumping with a certified tandem instructor allows the student/passenger to relax and enjoy the freefall and canopy ride with a minimum of ground training.
However, tandem students are required to complete a brief ground class, usually 30 minutes. >Class instruction includes an overview of the jump process, climbing to altitude, exit, opening, canopy control and landing. >Service was also trained on proper function and use of sport skydiving gear.
Once she got through all of that, Service was ready to take the plunge.
"I don't think I have ever seen our earth in all its beauty as I did then," she says. "The sound of silence was so overwhelming, I wondered if I had died temporarily and gone to heaven.
"I saw waves breaking on the shore but heard no sound. The dingy hangar that was old and rusted looking from ground level now was glistening white when I saw it from above. I am very aware now how we spoil our lovely environment."
From more than 10,500 feet in the air, Service, belted to her instructor, dropped to 7,000 feet in 90 seconds. Once the parachute was deployed it took the pair five to eight minutes to reach the ground.
Somewhere in that latter time frame, Service didn't make the change to her position that she had been taught.
"Rather than keeping my feet out in front, I had them down and when the instructor hit the ground, I did too," she says. Some scrapes and bruises "were a minor price to pay for the experience and I'm very thankful I'm here feeling well enough to tell the story."
Service is still looking at ways to explore new things in life.
"For my 100th birthday I would like to go to the moon," she says.
Jeralie Andrews is the volunteer director at St. Joseph of the Pines.
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