OGDEN — Doris Whitesides’ grin couldn’t have been much bigger Saturday morning as she hurtled toward the earth at 120 miles per hour, 12,000 feet above Ogden.
To celebrate her 80th birthday, her four children fulfilled her lifelong dream to jump out of a plane.
Doris lives just west of the Ogden-Hinckley Airport, where the Ogden Skydiving Center is located, and often sees the parachutists gliding through the sky.
“I see them and I think, ‘I wish that was me,’” she said before her dive. “There’s no sense putting something off that you want to do at this age.”
Doris tandem-dived with instructor Hardus Visser from South Africa. She said he was an encouraging voice during the 50-second free fall and 5- to 7-minute total descent.
“He was just telling me to relax. … He talks to you and reassures you all the time,” she said.
Waiting on the ground with their eyes to the sky were dozens of Doris’s friends and family.
The mother of four, grandmother of 16 and great-grandmother of 18 is her family’s pioneer in skydiving.
Although no one in her family had ever skydived, many were making plans for their own jumps by the time Doris reached the ground.
“I’m proud of her,” said her youngest son, Todd Whitesides, who skipped work and drove 500 miles from Reno, Nev., to see the jump.
Four-year-old Mason Whitesides kept pointing to the sky and wishing he could be jumping with his great-grandmother.
“We have a rock ’n’ roll grandma,” said Brandon Whitesides, 30, of North Ogden.
Also traveling a long distance to watch was Doris’ oldest son, Steven Whitesides, who lives near Portland, Ore.
Doris said Steven is the troublemaker in her family.
“This is fantastic. This is our dream come true, because I am the first beneficiary (of her estate),” Steven joked as he waited to see his mother jump. “That’s the way our family rolls. I get the Cadillac; we’ve already drawn straws. I’ve been waxing it and getting it ready.”
When asked what he would do when she landed safely, his response was that he would give her a big hug and then check to make sure she didn’t lose her teeth.
“That’s her greatest concern, so she put an extra strip of Polident in this morning,” Steven quipped.
All joking aside, he pointed out the happy energy surrounding the friends and family who had gathered to celebrate the day.
Doris said her favorite part of the fall was after the chute had opened and her instructor guided them toward the landing area.
“You can see all the way to Huntsville,” she said.
When asked if she would do it again, Doris said she would, but “maybe tomorrow.”