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WWII veteran skydives at age 100, continuing his lifelong wild streak

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100-year-old Ronald Mason of West Des Moines took the leap he is been desirous to do since he was a pilot in the USA Navy in World Conflict II. On Saturday he jumped from 13,00zero toes above earth with a skydiver from Des Moines Skydivers in Winterset.
Bryon Houlgrave, Des Moines Register

DES MOINES, Iowa – Ronald Mason’s tandem skydive from 13,00zero toes final weekend was 77 years within the making.

Mason, 100, was ready numerous instances to plunge himself into the Atlantic whereas a naval aviator flying anti-submarine patrol throughout World Conflict II.

He by no means needed to, regardless of dangerous climate and mechanical woes. Had he or different members of his squadron been compelled to leap from their twin-engine planes, they have been armed with 12-inch daggers to struggle off sharks.

Since his software to be a parachutist  was rejected in 1942, the Iowan has been ready for the proper time to leap.

“I’ve at all times had the will to make the bounce,” he saidSaturday. “Luckily, I used to be ready to do this, and it was each bit what I had anticipated. I loved it very a lot.”

Ronald Mason, 100, of West Des Moines, appears out over the Winterset airport in Saturday, June 1, 2019, moments earlier than fulfilling his lifelong dream of skydiving. (Picture: Bryon Houlgrave, Bryon Houlgrave)

Mason requested for a experience final Saturday to the Winterset airport from his retirement residence in West Des Moines. He didn’t disclose to the motive force what enterprise he had in Winterset, so she was shocked to tug as much as a hangar bustling with dozens of skydivers.

He hadn’t advised his relations beforehand, both; he did not wish to burden them with fear or guilt, ought to one thing go incorrect, Mason mentioned. However one among his lifelong pals, Dick Hanson, was aware of his plans. Mason advised him to not present up, however Hanson did anyway.

“He’s doing one thing at 100 that I’ve by no means dreamed of doing,” Hanson mentioned as John Huddleson, a tandem teacher at Des Moines Skydivers, adjusted Mason’s harness.

In denims, a long-sleeve denim shirt and brown leather-based boots, Mason confirmed as much as the club-owned drop zone together with his growing old briefcase in tow. His pushed-back white hair and full beard caught out within the room full {of professional} skydivers in athletic gear.

“Usually, when individuals are that outdated, they do not get round very effectively. However I used to be very stunned at how younger he really appears,” mentioned A.J. Horrigan, the drop zone supervisor at Des Moines Skydivers. “And I heard he did an amazing job.”

Ronald Mason, 100, of West Des Moines, offers two thumbs up after touchdown a tandem dive from 13,00zero toes above earth with skilled skydiver John Huddleson, proper, on Saturday, June 2, 2019, at Des Moines Skydivers in Winterset. The bounce fulfilled a lifelong dream for the centenarian, a World Conflict 2 veteran who flew planes for the U.S. Navy. (Picture: Bryon Houlgrave, Bryon Houlgrave)

Senior residents aren’t unusual on the membership, Horrigan mentioned, however the oldest jumper he remembered seeing in Winterset was 91. As of June 2019, a 102-year-old Australian lady claims the title of oldest skydiver on the earth.

Saturday afternoon, Mason and about 20 others climbed up a brief ladder into the again of a airplane the membership leased for the weekend. The rented Viking Twin Otter goes as excessive as 13,00zero toes, an altitude that gives jumpers nearly a full minute of free-fall.

Seated within the airplane, flyers anxiously ascend for 15 minutes. As soon as at leaping altitude, the door slides open, and tandem jumpers inch to the sting of the airplane till their toes are dangling.

Heads again.

Arms grasp the loops on the harness – to stop jumpers from grabbing the edges of the door in a last-second panic.

Then the tandem pairs lean ahead out of the airplane – and fly.

“Do you assume I’m loopy?” Mason requested with a smile when he shared his plans with a Des Moines Register reporter a month in the past.

He is by no means been one to play it protected.

Born in Orient, Iowa, on Jan. 20, 1919, Mason grew up within the Nice Melancholy. He had quite a lot of troublesome jobs as a younger man, together with digging ditches. Seeing his middle-aged boss work strenuously to interrupt into the drought-hardened topsoil, Mason mentioned he made a promise to himself that he’d obtain a better calling.

For a number of months, he turned a “hobo,” hopping trains alongside the West Coast, Canada and Mexico, and entering into loads of bother alongside the way in which.

Years later, he appeared for work on ships docked in California, however couldn’t get a union card for lack of expertise. He and a good friend thought of stowing away, however modified their minds when confronted with the daunting job of sneaking aboard a ship.

As a substitute, they each enrolled at a junior faculty in Los Angeles, the place tuition was $5 per semester. He met a former naval aviator whereas working odd jobs to pay for college.

He was at all times fascinated by flight, he recalled in 1993 voice recordings detailing his navy service which have since been transcribed into a brief memoir.

“The struggle clouds have been constructing in Europe and I advised myself early on that if I had a selection of the way to serve within the armed forces, it could be as a naval aviator,” he mentioned within the memoir.

He dictated his story from a Mexican resort city north of Puerto Vallarta, the place he and his late spouse, Alice, spent dozens of winters in retirement. Alice died at age 96 in January 2017.

Proof of his rebellious streak, Mason mentioned he was a part of a gaggle of troopers who would commerce their plentiful cartons of eggs in change for liquor from civilians in North Africa. That is the place he “discovered to drink,” he mentioned.

Each day since, for a number of many years, he is loved two 2-ounce servings of Hawkeye Vodka on ice, he mentioned.

“It is the most cost effective factor I can discover,” he joked.

As soon as a civilian, Mason went to legislation faculty at Drake College and labored as a lawyer for 30 years.

Earlier than he retired, he began elevating cattle and farming in central Iowa. He later began an actual property improvement firm, which he nonetheless runs together with his 76-year-old son, Ronald Mason Jr.

His daughter, Linda Hunter, 73, is a author. She was born whereas the household lived in San Juan, Puerto Rico – one among 32 strikes the household made throughout Mason’s naval profession.

The siblings have been shocked to study, via a Fb submit, that Mason had skydived with out telling them, however each are glad he’s protected and loved himself, Mason mentioned.

At 100, Mason additionally continues to assist handle cropland and is an proprietor of an area limestone quarry.

Persevering with to work helps hold him sharp, he mentioned. It is one among his secrets and techniques to an extended life.

Genetics are on his aspect too: His mom lived to be 103, though she suffered well being issues in her later years, he mentioned.

“That is one among my objectives now: to dwell to 103 and know what the hell I am doing.”

Ronald Mason, 100, of West Des Moines, proper, talks with good friend Dick Hanson after leaping out of an airplane on Saturday, June 1, 2019, at Des Moines Skydivers in Winterset. (Picture: Bryon Houlgrave, Bryon Houlgrave)

He works out for an hour every morning, spending 20 minutes on a treadmill and 40 minutes on machines that stretch and strengthen his muscle mass. On weekends, he provides further balancing workouts to the routine.

He additionally reads voraciously, enjoys classical and Broadway music and watches some tv, like documentaries and the information.

Being social is necessary too, he mentioned. He and Hanson, who watched him skydive, have met for lunch every week in Des Moines for the previous 5 many years.

Minutes after making his good touchdown – hoisting his toes and legs up in entrance of him and touchdown on his bottom – he was requested: Would you do all of it once more?

“In fact!”

“If I have been youthful, I would prefer to grow to be an astronaut if I might,” he mentioned after the bounce. “However I am nonetheless accessible – if any area group, governmental or personal, desires to have a 100-year-old exit in area, I am prepared.”

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