She’s not plain, she’s Supernan
AT lunchtime today – wind and God willing – 102-yearold Irene O’Shea will become the oldest person to ever jump out of a plane.
She passed her Friday medical appointment with flying colours despite the bung arm from a stroke at 95 that means she can’t crochet any more, the screws in her left ankle from a tumble at 80, and the bolt in her right femur from a fall at 100. “I’m alive, I’m pretty good really, still agile, live by myself,’’ Mrs O’Shea, of Athelstone, said. “The jump doesn’t worry me. I’m not a bit scared.” And why should she be. Hardly a novice – having jumped for the first time at 100 – today’s jump will be the third done in the hope of raising awareness of and money for motor neurone disease. Irene’s beloved daughter, Shelagh, died of the disease 10 years ago yesterday.
Shelagh’s husband, Mike Fitzhenry, 82, said his late wife was very much like Irene – they both have the same spunk, the same independence.
“We were together for 50 years,’’ he said. “She was very clever with language and that’s the first thing that went with the MND. It affected her from the top down and she lost that ability.”
Irene spent the years following the death of her husband, Tom, at 43 from stomach cancer, raising her two children alone.
After putting her son through an apprenticeship, she thought: “Now it’s time for me”.
“I’ve travelled the world, seen Egypt, the Grand Canyon, Sweden,” she said. “But I always wanted to do something like this, jumping out of a plane. After Shelagh went, I thought it’d be good to do something like this for her.”
So if the weather clears as predicted, and the air stills, Irene will travel to Langhorne Creek, wrap herself up in a jumper and beanie – “it’s bitterly cold up there, like the Arctic” – strap herself on to her instructor, and jump.
“The last time we came down, it was a bit windy and we had a bit of a twizzle and I thought: ‘I really don’t want to be sick on the way down’,’’ she said. “I’ve just lived an ordinary life, I’ve just done what I wanted. If you live an honest, decent life, you’ve got nothing to worry about.
“But if I do it again at 103, that is in the lap of the gods. If I live to 105 then I might have another go then.”
At 102 years and 185 days Irene will be beat the oldest person for a tandem jump, Kenneth Meyer, of New Jersey, who accomplished the feat last year at 102 years and 172 days.
NO BIG DEAL: Irene O’Shea skydives with Jed Smith at Langhorne Creek last year when she was 101.