The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

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May 25, 2014

Flight of fancy

85-year-old man crosses skydiving off his bucket list

SPRINGFIELD TOWNSHIP — Dick Eastlick was not about to be shown up by the 41st president of the United States, George H.W. Bush.

Inspired by Bush’s skydiving for his 75th, 80th, and 85th birthdays, the Greenville man took his own flying leap on Saturday to celebrate his 85th birthday.

“It’s adrenaline,” Eastlick said of his skydiving experiences. “It’s the biggest thrill in the world.”

He made his first jump when he was 72, followed by his second at 80, and once he saw that Bush jumped on his 85th birthday, he made up his mind to do it again.

Eastlick said he had always wanted to jump but never seemed to have the finances while raising and supporting his family.

“After I retired and got old, I decided I was going to jump,” Eastlick said.

As he’s freefalling over the Grove City area at 120 mph, Eastlick said he looks all around and appreciates everything he sees.

“At 500 feet, when the parachute opens, it’s just total silence. It’s just beautiful,” Eastlick said.

Cecil Smith, owner of Skydive Pennsylvania, which is based at the Grove City airport, joked with Eastlick before the jump.

“He had to wait a few years to come. He called me like 40 years ago and I said ‘Hey, you have to be more mature. We can’t have any radical teenagers coming.’ So he called me the other day and said, ‘I’ll be 85, I’m good to go.’ ”

Dick is no stranger to taking chances in life.

He was a “career military man,” who served for 21 years. He was a medic for a tour in Vietnam and made dentures for his remaining years in the military.

His wife of 62 years, Phillis, said they’ve moved 40 times all over the U.S. from Key West, Fla., to Washington state.

“I got the list if anyone wants to know,” she joked. “I have all the addresses.”

They lived in Texas where Dick taught dental technology at a college.

They spent time in Alaska, where Dick worked as a commercial fisherman. His daughter married a commercial fisherman and lives there with her family and one of her two brothers.

He’s also enjoyed traveling the country as a semi truck driver, Dick said.

After traveling all over the world, skydiving was the last item on Eastlick’s bucket list.

Phillis said she wasn’t sure Dick was going to skydive this time because he’s had many illnesses.

He’s battled bladder, skin and lung cancers, and recently learned he’s clear of all cancer. Dick also suffered a stroke and, in 2007, he underwent triple heart bypass surgery.

After all that, skydiving seems like a minor challenge.

So, when Phillis was asked at the beauty shop Saturday morning what she would do if something went wrong, she just laughed.

“We have strong faith. If anything happens, we’re covered,” she joked. “We’ll have a beautiful funeral. We’re ready to go to heaven.”

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