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Man, 79, jumps to fulfill wish

Photo by Casey Dixon

Photo by Casey Dixon

ALBANY -- Each time his son jumped out of an airplane to skydive, his father grew more interested in doing the same.

David Clearman Sr. has had a desire to parachute from a plane since he served in the U.S. Air Force in the early 1950s.

Clearman was trained as a gunner in the turret area on B-29 and B-36 airplanes. However because the Korean War ended in 1953 and Clearman choose to get out of the service when they offered an early out to him after he had served three years, he never was forced to jump out of a plane.

"We never had to (use the parachute), but we were close a couple times," said Clearman, who turned 79 years old Saturday. "I kind of always wanted to feel how it felt to jump out, but I never wanted to with the B-36 because they flew too high. They flew 45,000 (feet in the air). The maximum for the B-29 was about 30,000."

Clearman's inkling to parachute has intensified over the years as modern skydivers gained more control over a parachute.

"In the old days, you had no control of the parachute; it just went where the wind went," said Clearman, who spent most of his military service at Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield, Calif. "When I first saw the parachuters now and how they had control and could do all these maneuvers up there, I really wanted to see how it felt then and that's when I really had the desire to jump."

His skydiving cravings continued to rise when his son, David Jr., did a tandem jump in May. Those feelings have soared even higher since October as David Jr. has skydived six times in the last couple of months.

"He started getting more excited about it when I started doing it," David Jr. said. "I had a couple videos made of my tandem and solo and I showed them to him and he was really excited about it."

When his father's 79th birthday approached, David Jr. thought it would be a great idea to give his dad an opportunity to skydive for his birthday. David Jr. -- along with his sisters, Sharon McNeil and Sheila Jordan, and mother, Eloise -- came together to spent about $300 to give his father a videotaped tandem skydiving trip.

Clearman will train about 10 minutes before jumping out of a plane attached to an instructor in Cedartown on either Tuesday or Wednesday.

"I think when men get older, they get harder to please and gifts they get are put on a shelf or they're unused, given away or collect dusk and forgotten about," said David Jr., who has been Deerfield-Windsor School's director of technology since 2005 and works closely with Lynda Gray, the school's head of the technology department and teacher.

"We wanted him to remember this one for his very short life, which should be about six minutes once he steps out," David Jr. joked of the skydiving gift.

Not missing a beat, Clearman responded: "They say falling doesn't hurt until you stop."

Clearman said he's excited about finally taking the long anticipated plunge.

"I really hadn't told anybody," said Clearman, who managed and maintained the Marine Corps Logistics Base-Albany bowling center for 33 years before retiring in January. "I really was going to wait until it happened and then I'd talk about it.

Clearman said he predicts he'll be nervous initially, but will get over his jitters quickly.

"Once I get on the plane, I'll be a little anxious," he said. "But once we get up in the air, I'll be fine. I'll probably jump some more (after this)."

Clearman's wife said she is happy for her husband.

"I love him very much," Eloise Clearman said. "I'm proud of him. I think this is something he really wants to do and I'm with him all the way. For a 79-year-old, he is still young at heart."

Even Clearman's 9-year-old granddaughter, Noelle, is excited about the birthday jump.

"I think it is so cool that my Pop is going to skydive," she said. "It is amazing."

Although David Jr. could've jumped with his father, he believed the experience would be more enjoyable watching from the ground. He also noted that one of the best parts of the gift will be attending the annual family reunion next summer.

"The thing I'm looking forward to the most is come July is that my dad has the boringest reunions," he laughed. "They give away jam! This July, he'll have his video of him skydiving and that'll definitely brighten up the place."