Bush Parachutes On 80th B-Day

Former President George Bush parachutes to his landing after a tandem jump with Sgt. Bryan Schnell, a member of the U.S. Army Golden Knights, Sunday, June 13, 2004 at his presidential library in College Station, Texas. AP

Former President George H.W. Bush celebrated his 80th birthday Sunday with a parachute jump from 13,000 feet over his presidential library.

He jumped in tandem with a member of an Army parachute team after officials decided the wind conditions and low clouds made it too dangerous for the 41st president to jump alone, a reprise of a stunt he made when he turned 75.

He waved as he approached a cheering crowd of about 4,000 people, including wife Barbara, his son, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev.

The jump capped two days of festivities. On Saturday, a baseball park full of about 5,200 people, including his eldest son, President Bush, former British Prime Minister John Major and celebrities and sports figures such as Dennis Miller and Pete Sampras, wished Bush a happy birthday.

When President George W. Bush, and his wife, Laura, were introduced on Saturday, the audience loudly applauded and waved tiny American flags.

"I want to thank you for coming to wish our dad a happy birthday. Most of you are here because over the years you have come to know and love our dad," President Bush told the crowd at Houston's Minute Maid Park. "He has touched you because of his decency and warmth, his humility and humor. You know what we know. We are fortunate to have George Bush as a part of our lives."

The elder Bush delivered a eulogy at the memorial service Friday for former President Ronald Reagan, under whom he served as vice president. A Bush spokesman, Jim McGrath, said that despite the mourning period, the sentiment was Reagan would have felt "the show must go on."

Bush made his first parachute jump as a 20-year-old Navy pilot shot down over the Pacific during World War II. In 1992, he bailed out over Yuma, Arizona, fulfilling a wartime promise he made to himself that some day he'd jump from a plane for fun.

"The view is really unbelievable," Bush said in a recent interview with The Associated Press. "It's really hard to describe. The most tranquil part, for me the most wonderful part, is when you're floating alone down to earth. It's total quiet ... peace, total peace."

The party was designed to raise money for the George Bush Forty-One Endowment, which supports his library foundation, the Houston-based University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center and Bush's Points of Light Foundation. Tickets started at $200. During the party, it was announced that more than $55 million were raised in the last two years.

By Michael Graczyk
  • Raksha Shetty

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