'Of course I'm not ner­vous': 87-year-old sky­dives for the first time

Kuwait Times - - LIFESTYLE -

Wen­dell Ashcroft floated grace­fully to the ground af­ter fall­ing from 12,000 feet. As Ashcroft com­pleted his first jump, the ca­sual ob­server might have thought the 87-yearold man had been sky­div­ing his whole life. He was filled with ex­cite­ment and did not once hes­i­tate at the idea of jump­ing out a per­fectly good air­plane. While Ashcroft jumped with two of his grand­daugh­ters, a grand­son, a daugh­ter-in-law and a niece, many of his other fam­ily mem­bers gath­ered to snap pho­tos and cheer from the ground as he sailed in un­der a flut­ter­ing red, white and blue para­chute.

The de­ci­sion to go sky­div­ing started when Ashcroft de­cided to go on a zip line trip. His grand­son, Ja­son Ashcroft, said that when he saw his grand­fa­ther ar­rive at the bot­tom of the zip line, he had the idea to ask if Ashcroft would be in­ter­ested in sky­div­ing. "I was just mak­ing a joke out of it," Ja­son Ashcroft said, but his grand­fa­ther liked the idea and a plan quickly formed to go sky­div­ing.

Ashcroft's grand­daugh­ter, Danielle Gar­rick, said she wasn't sure if Wen­dell Ashcroft was ac­tu­ally ex­pect­ing to go sky­div­ing, but she liked the idea and be­gan search­ing for a time and a place to take the idea for­ward and was sur­prised by how ready he was to sky­dive Though Wen­dell Ashcroft is a man of few words, his fam­ily sees him for his ac­tions and his will­ing­ness to do any­thing with his chil­dren and grand­chil­dren. Even when he is not seek­ing thrills, he leads an ac­tive life and can of­ten be seen mow­ing his lawn, as well as his neigh­bor's lawn.

His son, Dale, said that upon telling Aschroft that he is do­ing too much, Ashcroft said, "What do you want me to do, sit in my chair and die?" When Ashcroft, who was born and raised in Cache County's Hyde Park, was a young man, he worked as a car­pen­ter un­til he re­ceived his draft no­tice on Thanks­giv­ing 1951. As the United States was fight­ing in the Korean War, Ashcroft en­listed in the Air Force and be­gan teach­ing jet me­chan­ics.

"The Air Force was the best thing that ever hap­pened to me," Ashcroft said. "I was a lit­tle dumb kid, and I didn't know that I could do any­thing un­til I got into the Air Force." Ashcroft said he gained a sense of con­fi­dence from work­ing with other air­men from across the United States. "You learn a lot about them and you learn a lot about your­self," Ashcroft said. Job in car­pen­try

Though Ashcroft was sup­posed to be sent to Korea, a last-minute change in pol­icy al­lowed Air Force ser­vice­men to stay home if their wives were within two months of giv­ing birth. The change in pol­icy al­lowed Ashcroft to stay in the United States as his wife gave birth to their sec­ond child, Richard. A year later Ashcroft found out that three of the ser­vice­men he was sup­posed to go to Korea with had been killed in a plane ac­ci­dent upon their re­turn home.

"I got out of go­ing be­cause of (Richard). In­stead he saved my life," Ashcroft said. "I would have been on that plane, just as sure as any­body." Af­ter get­ting out of the Air Force in 1956, Ashcroft said he didn't know where to go. He didn't want to re­turn to a job in car­pen­try, which he said he didn't like. In­stead he sought the op­por­tu­nity to at­tend col­lege and even­tu­ally found a pas­sion for teach­ing while work­ing in the Lo­gan School District from 1961 to 1992.

"I think he is an amaz­ing hu­man be­ing al­to­gether," Ja­son Ashcroft said. "I was ask­ing him if he's ner­vous, and he's just like, 'No I've been through ev­ery­thing, of course I'm not ner­vous.'" Gar­rick said that in her time spent with her grand­fa­ther, he has taught her that peo­ple are never too old to pur­sue their dreams. Upon land­ing, Ashcroft said he had en­joyed the jump and would be ex­cited to go again. — www.de­seretnews.com

Scotty Free­land, left, of­fers ad­vice to Wen­dell Ashcroft about watch­ing his head when he climbs into the plane.

Sky­dive Og­den Owner Suzanne Wal­lace helps fit Wen­dell Ashcroft in a cap.

Ja­son Ashcroft, left, Wen­dell Ashcroft, and Danielle Gar­rick share a fam­ily hug af­ter land­ing safely from their first sky­div­ing ex­pe­ri­ence at Sky­dive Og­den. — AP pho­tos

Wen­dell Ashcroft and his tan­dem in­struc­tor Scotty Free­land pre­pare to land at Sky­dive Og­den.

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