Don’t tell President George H.W. Bush that he’s 90 years old, or that he struggles to get around on his own. The father of both the 43rd U.S. president and Florida’s 43rd governor — who served in the Oval Office himself — likes to celebrate birthday milestones by skydiving, like he did this past week in Maine.
Zephyrhills mayor Gene Whitfield was one of many who cheered the president from a distance. However, after it was all said and done, Whitfield felt that if Bush wanted to make a similar jump from an aircraft on his next birthday milestone, he should do it in Zephyrhills — for free.
“Whether President Bush knows it or not, he is an inspiration to so many people around the world, not just for his years of public service, but for the example he sets by making every day count, and living an active healthy life well into his golden years,” Whitfield said, in a release. “It would be a thrill for all of us to see him jump here at Skydive City on the day he turns 100. In fact, if he would like to bring President George W. Bush and Gov. Jeb Bush along with him, we’ll arrange so they can all jump together.”
The elder Bush, a World War II veteran, would feel right at home in Zephyrhills, Whitfield said, citing the airport as a former WWII training facility, and home of the city’s military history museum. Whitfield quickly gained the support of the Greater Zephyrhills Chamber of Commerce in his efforts, which offered to fund the jump through its own resources.
In Whitfield’s letter to Bush, which you can download here, the mayor shared with the president the quick stopover visit he and former First Lady Barbara Bush made to Zephyrhills en route to Saddlebrook Resort several years ago for a speaking engagement. He also touched on a relationship Jeb Bush had with a Zephyrhills middle school student, Matt Ross, who would exchange emails and even play golf together.
Bush’s jump this past week was one in a series of tandem jumps the former president has made beginning with his 75th birthday. It was said to be his eighth skydiving jump, something he first did when he was shot down over the Pacific Ocean during World War II.