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A Hagerstown woman celebrates her 80th birthday by skydiving

July 17, 2010|By MARIE GILBERT
  • Darce Easton of Hagerstown, in pink, celebrated her 80th birthday by tandem skydiving from an airplane at the Chambersburg Skydiving Center at Franklin County (Pa.) Regional Airport. Easton jumped 1,400 feet.
Submitted photo,

Darce Easton stood at the door of a single-engine Cessna and looked out into a vast chasm of blue.

In a few moments, she would step off the edge, feel the rush of air in her face, then gently fall to the ground.

When it came to celebrating her 80th birthday, the Hagerstown woman decided to approach it with a sense of adventure.

She might as well jump.

"It's something I've always wanted to do," Easton said of skydiving.

Marking a milestone birthday seemed like the perfect occasion.

"I told people it would test my senility or my sanity," she joked.

Easton said she told her son about her interest in skydiving and his response was simple: "That can be arranged."

He contacted the Chambersburg Skydiving Center at Franklin County (Pa.) Regional Airport and Easton began filling out paperwork.

"That's when I knew it was really going to happen," she said.

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Although her birthday is April 30, Easton said she had to delay the jump until July 10.

But it was worth it.

"It was a marvelous experience," she said. "The jump was super - except for one little problem."

Easton broke her ankle.

"I landed the way I was instructed," she said. "But my toe must have gotten caught on something and I broke a small bone."

But not even the injury could dampen her enthusiasm.

"I'm so glad I jumped," she said. "I could have broken my ankle walking out my front door. I may have broken a bone, but I got to do something special."

Prior to the jump, Easton said she viewed a film, which gave her an idea of what to expect. Then, she headed skyward.

Easton said she jumped tandem, where the skydiver is harnessed to an trained professional.

"When it came time to jump, there was no hesitation on my part," she said. "I was excited about doing this."

Easton said she jumped from 1,400 feet and fell through a cloud when the first shoot opened. When the second shoot opened, she and her instructor were jerked slightly upward.

Then it was smooth sailing.

"We soared all over the area, with my partner pointing out landmarks," she said. "It was so beautiful to look down at the countryside. It was fabulous."

Though the landing wasn't as successful as she had hoped, Easton said she was treated "marvelously by the emergency room staff at Chambersburg Hospital."

"I was in and out in less than two hours," she said. "They were a super group of people."

Easton said she's always been the adventuresome type, "though I don't know if there is a proper adjective to describe me," she laughed.

She was born in Clear Spring and grew up at Washington Monument State Park, where her father was superintendent. She remembers her father escorting President Franklin Delano Roosevelt from South Mountain to Antietam Battlefield in 1937, when Alternate U.S. 40 was the only road from Washington, D.C., to Washington County.

She married Ernest Easton, a veteran of World War II, who died in 1987 after 37 years of marriage.

After retiring from teaching, Darce Easton said she began volunteering at the Washington County Hospital and Community Action Council, as well as The Miller House and the Washington County Rural Heritage Museum.

"I've always been a people person," she said. "I'm always interested in what's going on. I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up."

Easton said she likes to stay active and hasn't let her age slow her down.

"I think 80 is the new 60," she said. "I feel so blessed. So many of my friends have health problems and know the names of their medicines like the names of their children. I'm very lucky."

Easton said skydiving was just one of the many things on her to-do list including meeting a president.

"I think that would be quite an honor," she said. "I was very small when FDR came to Washington Monument, so it didn't mean to me then what it would mean to me now."

Easton said family and friends weren't really surprised when she told them she was going to jump out of an airplane.

"They know me," she said.

And, despite the injury, Easton said she would do it all over again, even though she doesn't think her family would be too happy.

Easton has no idea how she'll celebrate her 81st birthday "but it probably won't be falling out of a plane," she said. "I have a year to think about it."

She expects she'll be doing something special for many more birthdays.

"My mother lived to be 102," she said. "Maybe I can top that."

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