November 24, 2014


Former president Bush celebrates 90th birthday with parachute jump


Former President George H.W. Bush, strapped to Sgt. 1st Class Mike Elliott, a retired member of the Army's Golden Knights parachute team, prepare to land on the lawn at St. Anne's Episcopal Church while celebrating Bush's 90th birthday in Kennebunkport, Maine, Thursday. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

Former President George H.W. Bush, strapped to Sgt. 1st Class Mike Elliott, a retired member of the Army’s Golden Knights parachute team, prepare to land on the lawn at St. Anne’s Episcopal Church while celebrating Bush’s 90th birthday in Kennebunkport, Maine, Thursday. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

KENNEBUNKPORT, Maine (AP) — Former President George H.W. Bush celebrated his 90th birthday on Thursday by making a tandem parachute jump near his summer home in coastal Maine, delivering on a vow he made five years ago even though he can no longer use his legs.

The nation’s 41st president jumped from a helicopter at about 6,000 feet harnessed to Sgt. 1st Class Mike Elliott, a retired member of the Golden Knights, the Army’s parachute team. Elliott guided Bush to a gentle landing five years ago.

“That’s what he wanted for his 90th birthday and that’s what he got,” Elliott said. “It’s a very good feeling to be involved and be able to turn back time. He’s probably feeling younger now than ever.”

The helicopter picked up Bush outside his Kennebunkport home, known as Walker’s Point. His family transported him from his wheelchair to the chopper, then sang “Happy Birthday” before it took off.

Bush later floated to the ground using a red, white and blue parachute and landed near St. Ann’s Church, where friends and family had gathered, out of the sight of reporters. Elliott said Bush’s foot got tangled up underneath him during the landing, causing him to tumble forward onto the ground. A spokesman later said the former president was feeling “fine.”

“He had a big smile for the crowd. You could tell he was exhilarated,” said Diana Untermeyer, a family friend from Houston. “He’s an amazing man. This is just another sign of that. I think that like most of America, our family loves him to pieces. It was just a real thrill to do this again.”

Witnesses said Bush was greeted with a kiss from his wife, Barbara, and a hug from his son George. The family left the landing zone without talking to reporters.

Hundreds of people had gathered along rocks near the church to get a glimpse of the jump.

“He has a lot of courage. We need more like him,” said David Morris, 79, of Melrose, Massachusetts.

“I think it’s wonderful. I hope I can jump out of a plane at 90,” said Carol Schierl, 75, of Green Bay, Wisconsin,

The jump was kept secret until Thursday morning partly to give Bush himself the option of bagging it.

Spokesman Jim McGrath said the former president likes both a surprise and an adrenaline rush.

“It’s vintage George Bush,” McGrath said. “It’s that passion for life. It’s wanting to set a goal, wanting to achieve it. I’m sure part of it is sending a message to others that even in your retirement years you can still find challenges.”

The first time Bush jumped from an airplane was when his plane was shot down in World War II over the Pacific. Later, he decided to jump from a plane of his own accord and marked his 75th, 80th and 85th birthdays by skydiving. Thursday marked his eight jump.

Other birthday festivities included a private dinner with more than 200 relatives and friends, including some from his White House days: press secretary Marlin Fitzwater, White House counsel Boyden Gray and political director Ron Kaufman, McGrath said. His children, including former President George W. Bush and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, will be there, McGrath said.

Kennebunkport is a special place for the president. As a boy, he visited the family home at Walker’s Point every summer, except during World War II. The retreat was later dubbed his “summer White House.”

During his presidential years, Bush was known for jogging, tennis and fast-paced golf, but he now uses a wheelchair or scooter because of a form of parkinsonism that has robbed him of use of his legs. He signed the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990.

  • TruthWhisperer

    Did he leave a grease streak through the sky?

  • golfingirl

    “The first time Bush jumped from an airplane was when his plane was shot down in World War II over the Pacific.”

    Thank you President Bush for your service as a decorated WWII Combat Veteran.

  • SniperFire

    Imagine Owebama doing that. He would wet himself.

    • shadow

      No the loud mouthed Republicans would be saying ‘how much did that cost?’ You see, Obama has yet to out golf the W a$$hole who nearly tanked the entire country—but all we hear is how much Obama plays golf, we didn’t hear any of that when the ‘boy’ was in office. Who, by the way, is paying for this old man to be babysat out of a plane with full secret service and his diaper? Us. The taxpayer.

      • golfingirl

        Just to set the record straight:

        President George W. Bush played golf only 24 times during eight years in the White House, Bush stopped playing while in office on Aug. 19, 2003, after a truck bombing in Baghdad killed the U.N.’s top official in Iraq.

        At that time Bush said that “Playing golf during a war just sends the wrong signal,” and he stopped.

        Obama just completed his 173rd round of golf, and still has 2 1/2 years left in office.

        So you are very incorrect. You now look like the “a$$hole.”

        To refer to a past President of the United States, and a decorated war hero, as an “old man” wearing a “diaper” is both disrespectful and just plain ignorant, regardless of his political affiliation.

        • shadow

          I know if Obama jumped out of a plane like that with full secret service he’d be bemoaned for spending tax dollars. Likewise, 41 should pay his own way….he owns the world for crying out loud. But then, 414 is white so I guess it’s okay to waste money when you’re white, rich, and a Republican.

          And you’re wrong or your google isnt working. Obama is not even close to the Bush’s for golfing. They practically invented the game and several have chaired the National Gold Assn’. Geeeze.

          Did you know….Boehner has played 4 times more golf than Obama? He has.

          Go to school and ask the teacher if you can use her google to look it up. Maybe she’ll help you.

          • golfingirl

            “But then, 414 is white so I guess it’s okay to waste money when you’re white, rich, and a Republican.”

            Your reason for posting is now very clear….You are a racist.

            What does his color have to do with anything?

            And what is a “414?” And I need to “go to school and ask the teacher” for help. Really? Your writing is atrocious.

          • golfingirl

            Oh, and by the way, I am very correct on the “golf math.”

            Bush’s “practically invented the game?” That statement alone dismisses the little credibility you may have had left.

            Have a nice weekend.

          • Otter

            I need to make sure I read this right, you are comparing 4 generations of golf playing Bush’s, to 1 Obama? Well I guess that’s what it takes to prove your point. The game of golf was invented in Scotland, in the early 15th century, I don’t think any of the Bush’s were there, but maybe my Google isn’t working….cause I can’t find any reference to “414 owning the world, or any “National Gold Assn’”
            The story was simply about a past president, and WWII veteran jumping out of a helicopter (not an airplane,by the way) on his 90th birthday. And by the way, did you happen to see Obama’s birthday message to “41″, or “W’s” statement defending Obama’s playing golf? They both displayed a great deal of respect, and class, something that is hard to find these days.

          • golfingirl

            “Obama has taken three weekends away in a golf-friendly place this year after kicking off 2014 on the links in Hawaii.

            The Obama family also is planning a longer-than-usual summer vacation to Martha’s Vineyard for two weeks in August, where last summer the president golfed nearly every day on the island.

            Obama has golfed every weekend since Washington’s weather got clear enough to allow it in April, save a week when he was in Asia.”

            Iraq is falling, with thousands being executed. The immigration system is overwhelmed by all the children crossing into the country, the Russians are killing more Ukranians, and gas is approaching $5 per gallon.

            He could care less. He is nothing more than a narcissist.

          • Otter

            I wonder if he might visit Chappy while he’s there….

          • golfingirl

            I am sure he will.

            Throw a wreath in the water as a commemoration to Kennedy, the night he had to swim to shore and ruined his suit.

          • Otter

            Now that’s funny….there isn’t a golf course there, so maybe not. He only has 4 to choose from, and two of those are only 9 holes….maybe an afternoon at the “no dress code” beach, get rid of those golfer tan lines.

          • golfingirl

            Does he have tan lines?

        • SpaceTech

          Thanks G Girl! Well said!

      • Sue Lawson

        I can’t understand why any former president should have secret service for life. I am wondering, did they jump too? I think anyone can jump strapped to another person.

        • Otter

          In 1994 it was changed to a 10 year limit, for presidents serving after 1997. Obama signed the law returning it to lifetime in 2013.
          Maybe anyone can jump strapped to another person, but not everyone would.

          • Sue Lawson

            And not everyone would want to. I know, even with my fear of heights, I could definitely jump strapped to another person.

          • golfingirl

            After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Bush decided to join the U.S. Navy, directly out of high school. At the age of 18, he became the youngest naval aviator to that date.

            Bush was a combat pilot when his plane was hit. Despite his plane being on fire, Bush completed his mission and released his bombs, hitting his target. He then flew several miles from the island, into the ocean where he parachuted in the sea and was finally rescued.

            This is a to commemorate this event and the lives of those who did not survive.

            I can assure you he was not “strapped to another person” as his fighter jet was plummeting from the skies, heading into the ocean.

            He is 90 years old and a war hero. Get him a break, will you!

          • Sue Lawson

            No and that’s my opinion.

        • golfingirl

          Maybe, just maybe, because a past President has a price of his head, from all the radical groups worldwide, who would receive 1000 virgins in heaven if they killed him.

          I have no problem paying for their security, which is a direct requirement due to their service to this country.

          • Sue Lawson

            If a past president has a price on his head, I doubt the SS could save him.

          • golfingirl

            Then why does the current president need the Secret Service?

            Same logic, if you don’t feel they are capable of protecting him.

          • Sue Lawson

            Like I said, if someone really wants to get them, they will. An active president is more at risk than one that has been out of office for years. Remember when Reagan was shot? There were SS all around and yet she was able to get through and shoot him.

          • golfingirl

            “……and yet she was able to get through and shoot him.”

            Reagan was shot by a “he,” not a “she.”

            HIS name was John Hinckley, Jr.

            And I can assure you there are plenty of people who would like to assassinate a Bush and gain become a martyr, under some fanatical religion’s warped sense of logic!

          • Sue Lawson

            You’re right, Ford is the president that the crazy woman tried to shoot.

  • Scout

    Why so negative? We should be congratulating him for being able to do that at his age regardless of whether he’s the former president or the average joe. I think it’s wonderful. He is a member of the ‘greatest generation’ and we need more of them but there are less. As to having secret service for him-they all have it after they leave office. Quit complaining for pete’s sake.

    • Sue Lawson

      I know all of them have it. Where does it say in my comment that only certain presidents have it.

      • Scout

        I wasn’t speaking about your comment .I was speaking of all the negative comments.

        • Sue Lawson

          Gotcha ;)

  • SniperFire

    I’ll give the C-T credit. In the several months I have been visiting this, um, news organization, (to view the obituaries), this is the first even remotely positive story they have put out on someone slightly to the right of center.

    So congrats, CT. I guess.