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Skydiving family ranges in age from 18 to 94

  • Story Highlights
  • Four generations, in age from 18 to 94, jump out of plane at 14,000 feet
  • Great-grandmother Harriett Shepard jumped once before -- at age 91
  • Jumpers included family members age 94, 74, 45 and 18
  • "I'm never scared up there," great-grandmother says
  • Next Article in Living »
By John Couwels
CNN
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LAKE WALES, Florida (CNN) -- Does jumping out of a plane show love? For one family in Florida it does.

Dave Shepard, tethered to skydiving instructor David "Buzz" Bazzoni, hurtles toward Earth.

Trevor Muir (left), 23; Darcy Shepard, 18; Harriett Shepard, 94; and Dave Shepard, 74, are ready to jump.

Last Saturday, four generations of Darcy Shepard's family went skydiving for her 18th birthday. The oldest jumper was Shepard's 94-year-old great-grandmother, Harriett Shepard.

Skydiving is becoming a Shepard family rite of passage. Two members of the family had jumped before -- including family matriarch Harriett.

Harriett Shepard jumped three years ago, at age 91, because she wanted to know what it felt like.

She is an inspiration to her great-granddaughter.

"If she can do it at 91, then I could, too," Darcy says, explaining that she wasn't allowed to jump three years ago because she hadn't reached age 18.

As Darcy planned the adventure, her brother, cousins, father and grandfather decided to join her in skydiving.

At first, the family invited 94-year-old Harriett to watch everyone skydive in central Florida.

But Harriett, known to the family as "Honeynun," didn't want to watch. She wanted to jump. Video Watch Harriett and kin soar across the sky »

Adventure isn't new to this bunch. In the past the family has gone scuba diving and hang gliding together.

Jumping out of the plane were Harriett; Darcy; Harriett's 74-year-old son Dave; Dave's 45-year-old son Dallas, who is Darcy's dad; two cousins; a girlfriend; and a future father-in-law.

As she suited up, Harriett said she found it "exciting to be doing this with the family."

The eight uncertified skydivers were trained and paired with tandem instructors at Florida Skydiving Center at the Lake Wales Airport. The center required Harriett to be cleared by a doctor prior to jumping.

Florida Skydiving says Harriett Shepard is the oldest person to jump at the center.

As jump time nears, Harriett is fearless.

"I'm never scared up there," she says. "My husband and I had a plane. I'm never afraid." Photo See photos of the family's skydiving day »

Great-grandson Trevor Muir, another of the jumpers, says he has water-skied, jumped on a trampoline and climbed giant tree forts with his great-grandmother.

"So what's skydiving? Just another notch in the pole," says the 23-year-old Trevor. "We've done a lot of crazy things."

The plane, a DeHavilland Twin Otter, takes the group to an altitude of 14,000 feet. The rear door opens.

Pilot Eric Weaver announces over the radio: "Attention any traffic in the Lake Wales area. There will be skydiving over the Lake Wales Airport."

First to jump is 94-year-old Harriett, with her instructor David "Pip" Perry.

The skydivers free-fall at speeds between 120 and 150 mph before deploying their parachute.

"Honeynun" slowly floats to the ground, wearing her cozy buckle-up sandals that she feels are more comfortable than closed-toe shoes.

After landing, Harriett -- who has battled skin cancer -- is more fearful of the sun than jumping from the plane. One skydiver after the other lands safely to fanfare from anxious family members on the ground.

Eighteen-year-old Darcy is greeted with a chorus of "Happy Birthday." There are lots of high-fives, family photos and exclamations of "awesome."

Darcy hugs her great-grandmom: "Yay, Honeynun."

Darcy's father, Dallas Shepard, deems it "an incredible jump that was a lot of fun."

Dallas says that skydiving with his grandmother was "kind of neat, just being able to do it with her -- but she is living life, and that's the best part."

His father, Dave Shepard, calls it an experience he will remember for a long time. "It was something special, where we had four generations."

Harriett Shepard confesses that her late husband would not be happy.

"He would have never let me do this," she says. "He took care of me -- that's why I'm this old."

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Yet Harriett, who has lived a long and full life as an author, photographer and architect, is concerned about the publicity.

"She's worried," Dave Shepard says of his mom, "that the only thing people will remember her for is jumping out of an airplane."

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