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A 104-year-old woman became the oldest person to skydive


Dorothy Hoffner, 104, with instructor Derek Baxter just before a skydive in Ottawa, Illinois, on October 1, 2023 (Daniel Wilsey High Flight via The New York Times)
Dorothy Hoffner, 104, with instructor Derek Baxter just before a skydive in Ottawa, Illinois, on October 1, 2023 (Daniel Wilsey High Flight via The New York Times)

Dorothy Hoffnerborn in 1918, had survived Spanish flu and COVID pandemics, as well as his first attempt at skydiving at the age of 100.

That might explain what was going through his mind before his second jump, while preparing for a descent of almost 3000 meters. “What are we going to have for dinner?” he remembers thinking.

Hoffner, now 104 yearshad decided in spring recover the sensation of gliding in the air, floating, her wavy hair whipped by the wind. So on Sunday they picked up Hoffner at her residence at the senior center. Chicago Brookdale Lake View and they took her to the headquarters of Skydive Chicago. Over there left his cane before boarding a plane.

Was nervous? “No,” she responded Monday in an interview. Was she aware that perhaps she would beat the Guinness record of the World’s oldest person to skydive? “I had no idea”.

Tied to an instructor, Hoffner jumped out of the plane, soaked in the views of streams and square plots of land, and made history by landing on Ottawa, Illinois; She described the descent as “wonderful” to a small crowd that had gathered to congratulate her.

Dorothy Hoffner walks toward the airplane with instructor Derek Baxter.  She became the oldest person to have skydived (Brian Cassella / Chicago Tribune via AP)
Dorothy Hoffner walks toward the airplane with instructor Derek Baxter. She became the oldest person to have skydived (Brian Cassella / Chicago Tribune via AP)

Her jump quickly garnered national attention, and reporters called her all day Sunday and Monday. “The descent is very smooth,” declared to The Chicago Tribune. “Nice, quiet“he said on a local television station, ABC 7.

On Monday night, however, Hoffner commented that he was very disconcerted that people were so interested. “They only care about my age,” he claimed. Everyone seemed very impressed, he added, when in reality all he did was attach himself to an expert and let him do all the work.

Hoffner is, of course, not the first person to skydive at an advanced age. In 2014, the former president George H.W. Bush celebrated his 90th birthday jumping from a helicopter over Kennebunkport, Maine. The previous record holder was 103 years old.

Still, everyone wanted to know why Hoffner had done it. Surely there was some existential explanation, some “carpe diem” style phrase of wisdom to impart or a mission to fulfill.

Dorothy Hoffner, 104, becomes the oldest person in the world to skydive with tandem jumper Derek Baxter on Sunday, Oct. 1, 2023, at Skydive Chicago in Ottawa, Ill.  (Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune via AP)
Dorothy Hoffner, 104, becomes the oldest person in the world to skydive with tandem jumper Derek Baxter on Sunday, Oct. 1, 2023, at Skydive Chicago in Ottawa, Ill. (Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune via AP)

Hoffner doesn’t seem eager to impart life lessons and doesn’t exactly convey reckless vibes in her conversations. She is afraid of snakes. She loves watching reruns of “M*A*S*H.” When they ask her if she liked strong emotions when she was little, she answers “the truth is that she didn’t.” She was born on December 17, 1918 In Chicagojust after the end of World War I and when a flu pandemic devastated the world. grew up poorcould not pay for college and worked for Illinois Bell, a telephone company that later became part of AT&T.

Hoffner says that He never married or had children, which gave him more freedom. And with that freedom, she says, came abundant adventures: trips to Mexico, where she and a friend traveled by bus to dusty or beach towns; weekend trips around the country, aboard her blue Dodge Coronet; and boat trips on the Danube River in Germany.

“She is the perfect guest for dinner because she has interesting stories,” he said. Joe Conant, 62, a nurse who met Hoffner in 2018 at the senior center. He had been a caregiver for a friend of Hoffner’s and was impressed by his warmth and curiosity.

Dorothy Hoffner during her skydive with instructor Derek Baxter that made her the oldest person in the world to do so (Daniel Wilsey via AP)
Dorothy Hoffner during her skydive with instructor Derek Baxter that made her the oldest person in the world to do so (Daniel Wilsey via AP)

The day they met, Hoffner overheard Conant ask someone what would be served for dinner. “On the last Sunday of every month, there is no dinner here at Brookdale; we have a Sunday lunch,” he recalled Hoffner saying that day. “And you two will sit with me at my table.” A friendship arose. He visited her once a week and soon Hoffner began referring to Conant as her grandson. He also skydived with Hoffner on Sunday.

Reaching a century of life, Hoffner says, often means experience the death of the most loved ones. Even so, they always arise new friendships, she assured, and she found that in Conant. In 2019, he mentioned to Hoffner over dinner that she was going skydiving.

“That sounds very interesting,” she told him. “I think I want to do that.” Conant recounted that she caught him “totally off guard, but she was very serious.” That same year they went skydiving and Hoffner “loved it.”

Derek Baxter, the Skydive Chicago instructor who jumped with Hoffner, mentioned Monday that he wanted to make sure she could lift her legs during landing. “She did it a lot better than most people,” said Baxter, whose descent with Hoffner on Sunday was the 10,402nd jump of her career.

Dorothy Hoffner, 104, waves to the crowd with tandem jumper Derek Baxter, left, and his friend Joe Conant, at Skydive Chicago in Ottawa, Illinois (Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune via AP)
Dorothy Hoffner, 104, waves to the crowd with tandem jumper Derek Baxter, left, and his friend Joe Conant, at Skydive Chicago in Ottawa, Illinois (Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune via AP)

On the descent, Hoffner “He screamed all he wanted,” story. The video of the jump shows Hoffner looking around her with wide eyes under the glasses and her sky blue sweater that she fluttered as she descended on the parachute, apparently relaxed. (He later lamented that he had forgotten to pray before descent).

When he landed, and questions began to come in about what the descent had been like, Hoffner said he responded something like: “I just felt comfortable up there.”. She was more concerned about another issue: the dinner place.

By Sunday afternoon, Hoffner already had the answer: the Tangled Roots brewery in Ottawa. It was time for his second best treat of the day: a chicken salad special.



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