A former soldier from Oldham has reached for the skies to toast his 85th birthday – by jumping out of a plane at 15,000 feet.
Great grandfather Ken Partridge spurned traditional offers of a jumper, socks and a new pair of slippers – to instead complete a parachute jump in aid of charity.
The retired joiner and former Gurkha, who has battled prostate cancer, decided he wanted a bit more excitement in his advancing years.
For his 80th birthday in 2009 Ken enrolled on a computer course to learn how to use email and Skype his sister in Australia.
After seeing sky divers in action on TV, the widower vowed to do take the plunge and do a parachute jump himself.
He used his computer knowledge to set up his own Just Giving page saying: ”I have finally overcome the family’s protestations of ‘You’re too old Grandad!’ and,’You daft old bugger!’ by pointing out the many benefits this activity will bring.”
Then on the page Ken joked: “It will be an exciting and thrilling experience for me, it will raise much needed money for a fantastic cause – and it will save money on burial costs should the chute fail to open!”
Last weekend completed his mission at Cockerham, near Lancaster to raise money for cancer research – although daughter Shirley Hutchinson, 60, was too nervous to watch.
Daredevil Ken, who has two children, five grandchildren and five great grandchildren, said: “When I told Shirley about the skydive she was dead against it.
”She said ‘over my dead body will you do a sky dive’. But she had to come round to the idea because I was so determined.
“She wouldn’t come and watch me so I had to get my son Keith and my granddaughter’s husband to all come along. I’m sure they all think I am mad.
“My grandchildren kept saying ‘you’re too old grandad’ and others called me a daft old bugger but there was no way I wasn’t going to do it once I had my mind set on it.
Ken says there is only one person who may have been able to talk him out of it – his wife.
“My wife Alice died five years ago and if she was still here now I don’t know what she would say,” he said. “I don’t think she would be letting me do it either.
“As far as I’m concerned you’re never too old to do anything, you’ve just got to enjoy yourself.”
Ken, who served in the Royal Army Medical Corps and was attached to the Gurkha regiment in Malaya during his national service in 1947, came up with his sky diving idea after vowing his 85th birthday would be one to remember.
He added: “I had seen people sky dive on the TV and in films and it’s something I had always wanted to do but never got round to it.
”Eighty-five is a milestone birthday and I just decided wanted to do something that I would never forget.
“I first mentioned it to my friends at the liberal club on my 84th birthday last year and they all thought I was mad.
Ken says he doesn’t think anyone really believed he would actually go through with it, but he was determined for someone to take him on, despite his age.
He added: ”Most of them only take people under 70 but then I found the Black Knights Parachute Centre.
“They said they would have me as long as I had a couple of tests and my consultant said it was ok.
“When I told my friends I had been for tests to see if I was fit enough to do it they all asked if I had gone to get my head tested too.”
After Ken got the go-ahead from his doctor he set up a Just Giving page with a sponsorship target of £2,000 to be donated to Cancer Research.
So far he raised over £700 on his Just Giving page but says his fundraising isn’t over yet.
“The skydive was absolutely fantastic. When we got up there it was freezing. It was about minus 20 outside but I was well prepared for it with all the gear,” he said.
“The free fall was out of this world. It was like nothing I had ever experienced.
“It was a clear blue sky and it was just amazing. I can’t describe how it felt when I hit the ground. I would definitely do it again, no matter what my age is.”
Much to his surprise, Ken was told that he is not the oldest person to have done the free fall with Black Knights – a 93-year-old woman holds that record.
He said: “That means I will just have to go back when I am 94 to make sure I beat her. I am looking at abseiling now.
“The skydive has given me the adrenaline bug, I’m definitely not going to stop yet.”
To sponsor Ken click here.
Image courtesy of dvidship, via Flickr, via YouTube, with thanks.