She’s not plain, she’s Su­per­nan

Sunday Mail - - NEWS - ELISA BLACK

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.

Pic­ture: BRYCE SELLICK/SA SKY­DIV­ING

NO BIG DEAL: Irene O’Shea sky­dives with Jed Smith at Langhorne Creek last year when she was 101.

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