It all started as a gag gift from Ed Beoshanz to Sally Maness on her 90th birthday in January: a certificate to go skydiving.
“I gave it to her as a joke,” Beoshanz said, “and told her, ‘You have to use it before you’re 100.’ ”
Maness said she knew he meant it as a joke, but told Beoshanz, “Too bad, I’m calling you on it.”
And just a few months later, she did.
On Saturday, Maness, her son Steve and grandson Gene Parker shared a three-generation skydive, each jumping as part of a tandem at SkyDance SkyDiving out near the Yolo County Airport.
Sally Maness was the only one of the trio who had never skydived before. Steve Maness used to do it all the time — the Oregon resident has more than 850 jumps under his belt, though he hadn’t jumped in quite a while before Saturday.
Parker, meanwhile, a Davis resident like his grandmother, recently began taking lessons and actually was planning a solo assisted jump on Saturday. But winds that picked up early grounded student jumpers, so Parker went as part of a tandem as well.
Beoshanz was on hand to watch Saturday, as were Sally Maness’ friends, children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, most of whom admitted being surprised that she had taken Beoshanz up on his offer.
“Not that she’s not brave enough,” said her daughter, Sandy Parker. “But she just never mentioned wanting to.”
Before the jump, Sally Maness had to sign some waivers, sit through a short class with chief instructor Greg Foster and watch a video of a jump.
Foster, who would be tandem jumping with Maness, took her through the process, step by step, of everything that would happen and everything she would need to do: how to hold her body coming out of the plane, when to pull her parachute and how to land.
“I’ll talk you through all the little stuff,” he told her.
As they headed over to suit up, Maness said she was ready to go.
“I’m excited, but not really scared,” she explained. “Just cautious.”
After suiting up, the trio — along with their tandem jumpers and a sizable collection of other solo jumpers — boarded the plane that would take them 13,000 feet up.
Shortly after 9 a.m., the plane started releasing its cargo, which appeared as tiny specks overhead. Sally Maness’ great-grandchildren, 12-year-old Cash Johnston and 5-year-old Lauren Parker, used binoculars to spot them. Cash, for one, would have very much liked to have been the fourth generation up there.
“I want to go so bad,” he said.
Parker and Steve Maness beat Sally to the ground with quick and efficient landings. She and Foster, meanwhile, floated slowly through the air, taking in the views and seeming to stop and hang just above her family, before slowly and gently touching down.
Beoshanz was one of the first there to greet her with a hug, before the rest of her family surrounded her.
“How was it?” she was asked. “Was it fun?”
“Yes,” Maness said, “though I don’t know if I want to do it again.”
“I’m a little wobbly,” she laughed.
“How about when you’re 100?” her granddaughter asked.
“Ask me again then,” Maness replied.
But the smile never left her face as she was led away.
— Reach Anne Ternus-Bellamy at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-747-8051. Follow her on Twitter at @ATernusBellamy