Sardis retiree fulfills longtime wish
By Rita Howell
Forget the birthday cake.
Forget the chorus of “Happy Birthday to you.”
What did John Clark Hudson of Sardis want for his 82nd birthday?
He wanted to skydive.
“I started thinking about turning 82,” the retired architect said. “I feel like 42, but in reality I thought I might ought to get serious about my bucket list.”
Skydiving was at the top of his list.
He remembers watching skydivers at the Panola County airport years ago, though he didn’t try it himself back then.
When he brought up the suggestion for his approaching birthday last month, his son, Mark, said he’d go, too.
His other son, Clark, said he wasn’t jumping out of a perfectly good airplane.
So plans were made with Skydive Alabama, a service which operates at the airport at Cullman, Ala., and which had been recommended by friends.
John Clark and his wife, Diane, and Mark and his wife, Lucretia, traveled to Alabama on Dad’s birthday, November 13, but the jumps were called off when the plane was grounded.
Rescheduled jumps on November 19 went off without a hitch. It was all recorded by a professional photographer who jumped, too.
The Hudsons signed up for tandem jumps, meaning the men jumped buddy-style, strapped to a professional guide.
“You were strapped so tight to your guide, like siamese twins,” John Clark said.
There was no training, he said. The guides did all the work.
“They called mine the ‘Mad Russian.’ Mark’s was named ‘Muffy.’”
Diane inquired of the Mad Russian how many jumps he’d made.
He answered “22,000 times.”
Diane said she wasn’t worried after that.
John Clark said he had no second thoughts during the trip, not even at the door of the plane, looking down.
“The guide counts ‘one, two, three,’ “ he explained, “and you can still back out at ‘one’ or ‘two.’ When he says ‘three,’ it’s too late.”
The plane, specially made for skydiving, was at about 14,000 feet when they jumped.
“It was a pretty day, few clouds. You could see the curvature of the earth,” John Clark said.
During the free fall portion of the jump, down to about 10,000 feet, he was traveling at 120 miles per hour, hence photos taken midair show some facial distortion.
At 10,000 feet the guide opened the parachute and the pair floated back to earth, where the guide landed his passenger safely.
“It took about five minutes,” John Clark said. “It wasn’t scary at all. I got more excited about it when I got back and saw the pictures.”
Checking off “skydiving” from his bucket list doesn’t mean he’s done.
Mark has already declared he wants to go back in June to celebrate his own birthday.
Better not plan on leaving Dad behind.