Jumping into the record books: 103-year-old skydives from Snohomish
Kitty Hodges, 103 of Seattle, sits on the ground shortly after landing from her skydive on Thursday, Aug. 15 at Snohomish’s Harvey Field surrounded by supporters and admirers.
Her next plan is to hike the Grand Canyon.
SNOHOMISH — It was a good day to set a world record.
On a sunny day with puffs of clouds framed by a blue sky, Kitty Hodges, 103, was ready to show how time can fly. She arrived to Harvey Field in Snohomish with her two sons and granddaughter, ready to rib the crowd as she soaked up attention from a group that grew from 30 to 75 by the time her tandem jump occurred at 1 p.m. Organizers plan to submit it to the Guinness Book of World Records.
On paper, she has now outdone the woman before her as the oldest tandem jumper: that woman was 100 years and 60 days old, and the man who set the record for oldest person prior to Kitty dove at 101 years and 38 days.
Kitty was unfazed by the record-breaking reality. She turned 103 on April 9. Her decision to jump was a long time coming and was based more on family ties than records. Her son, Warren, a regular at Harvey Field, has been on 49 total skydives — 24 this year — and has asked from year to year if his mother would go with him.
Right around Christmas in 2018, she said yes. And Thursday, Aug. 15 was the day. Whether it was her idea or his is a mystery. He says it was hers. She says it was his.
“She does it for her son and they say that they do it for her,” Kitty’s tandem partner Vladmir Ursachii said.
Warren buys jump tickets to give them away to strangers, said Elaine Harvey, co-owner of Skydive Snohomish. His mom was born in Tacoma and met her husband, also named Warren, at the University of Washington. The couple raised five sons in Seattle.
“She’s always been in support of my life,” said Dennis Hacker of Everett, who arrived to see Kitty jump. He moved from California at the age of 22, and spent a lot of time camping with Kitty’s family on Vashon Island.
“The fact that she is doing this does not surprise me at all,” said Jamie Hart, Director of Health Services at Bayview, where Kitty lives. Her home in Queen Anne is an assisted living facility, so she has her own apartment and gets some help with activities of daily living, but mostly lives on her own.
“I’ve long called her my hero,” said Janelle Ansell, Health Services Administrator at Bayview.
The crowd appeared to agree, cheering when she got on the plane and again when she came back to the spectator’s area.
To Kitty, it seems the jump is just another bold move. When she was 18, she rowed from Point Defiance to Quartermaster Harbor on Vashon, and in a recent meeting at her assisted living facility, she was collecting volunteers to hike the Grand Canyon for her next adventure, recruiting others with a point and a question, “Are you going? Are you?” And just last year, she hopped a bus, traveling through Seattle to see friends, Hacker said.
When asked before the jump if she was nervous, she said, “I’m not nervous. I think it’s just great!”
Kitty and her tandem dive partner Vladmir became fast friends. The two had met three weeks prior for a 15-minute training, but when she saw him on Thursday, she asked for a kiss.
Ursachii has been diving for 42 years. He said he is usually not nervous for a dive, but this one was different, with the large crowd and the elder dive partner.
As the dive instructors helped her get out of her wheelchair and into a jumpsuit, Kitty charmed one of them, saying, “I could stare into your eyes forever,” and he smiled and returned the comment. Then she said, “I could pull on your beard forever,” and gave his beard a tug, which was met with a warm smile.
For the 20-something students, he said he directs them to put on their own suits before a jump. Kitty had special attention and they made sure it was “super safe. Delicate.”
She boarded the Cessna Grand Caravan with the help of three people, and to the cheers of her crowd. At 1 p.m. with an announcement to look up, a visual in the sky above Harvey Field was like the fluffy wish-wisps from a dandelion that had gone to seed: eight jumpers, 10,000 feet off the ground. Within minutes, the blurry wisps turned into colorful rectangles: six parachutes were red, white and blue;
and two were purple, pink and bright yellow.
Kitty and her tandem partner were nearly last to land. He sat behind her in the grass, as she recovered from the jump, “Oh, oh, oh — my ears are hurting,” she said, eyes closed.
When asked if she wanted some water, she replied, “No, something stronger” to the laughs of onlookers.
“She’s back,” Ursachii said.
Jana Alexander Hill: 360-568-4121 ext. 145
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