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Man, 79, takes birthday leap

Photo by Casey Dixon

Photo by Casey Dixon

CEDARTOWN -- As a trained waist gunner in the turret area on B-29 and B-36 airplanes for the U.S. Air Force in the early 1950s, David Clearman Sr. was fortunate to have never been forced to jump out of a plane.

But after watching his son, David Clearman Jr., skydive six times since October, the septuagenarian had a growing desire to parachute out of a plane.

So, when Clearman Sr.'s 79th birthday approached, his son thought it would be a great idea for a birthday and Christmas gift -- giving his dad an opportunity to skydive for the first time.

Clearman Jr. -- along with his sisters, Sharon McNeil and Sheila Jordan, and mother, Eloise Clearman -- came together to spend about $300 to give his father a videotaped tandem skydiving trip. Clearman trained about 10 minutes before jumping out of a plane Dec. 22 attached to an instructor in Cedartown.

"It was about 2 p.m. before we loaded and 15 minutes later, myself attached to an instructor at 14,500 feet, we rolled out of the airplane into the icy blue sky," Clearman Sr. said. "It was a freefall for a few thousand feet before the chute was opened.

"I was even allowed to maneuver the chute for a spiral or two on the way down. It was a wonderful experience and I don't have words to say how much I enjoyed the experience nor how thankful I am of this combined birthday-Christmas gift from my caring wife and children."

Clearman Sr. said the jump was also recorded with aerial photography.

"You should see what your face looks like when you are sailing through the sky at 120 mph and your skin is flapping in the breeze ... well, it ain't pretty," said Clearman, who managed and maintained the Marine Corps Logistics Base-Albany bowling center for 33 years before retiring last January. "Was I nervous or afraid? The jump, no problem. David Jr.'s driving in Atlanta and freeway traffic was a hair-raising experience."

Clearman Jr. and his 9-year-old daughter, Noelle, watched his father's jump -- which took about six or seven minutes to complete -- from the ground. Clearman Jr. 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 saw the tiny dots leave the plane high in the sky," he said. "In a matter of minutes, Dad and his tandem instructor came sliding in the landing zone.

"When most people punctuate their experience with a adrenaline-fueled, expletive-laced outburst, Dad simply said, 'I enjoyed it immensely.' It was a great day for us all."

Clearman Sr. liked it so much, he's even planning to do another jump.

"But, I'll probably wait for warmer weather," he said. "It will probably be sometime in the spring or summer."