Free fallin’ at 70
Sun Citians, define exciting.
What would be the most exciting thing you would ever want to do on your birthday?
Ride a hot air balloon? Go crocodile hunting or piranha fishing on the Amazon in Brazil? Travel to wherever you want, for as long as you want? Rappel off a cliff in the Rockies?
Mary Lou Dorgan, a very youthful-looking resident of N. 30, celebrated her 70th birthday on July 31 by jumping out of an airplane at 14,000 feet over the Mississippi Valley in western Illinois. It wasn’t a dare or a bet or a “something-to-prove,” daredevil act. This was simply a fun way to celebrate a birthday, like you or I might decide to invite a few friends over for cake and ice cream on birthday number whatever.
It was a lifestyle decision by someone who has stretched the idea of fun several notches higher than most of us would even consider. While this was her first skydiving experience, she says she would like to do it again. “Maybe I’ll do it again for my 80th,” she joked.
Mary Lou is from a family that thinks outside the box when it comes to vacations and special events. A mother of a son and two daughters and a two-time grandmother, she has something of an adventurous personality. The skydiving event was hatched earlier this year when her son, Eric, called her and said he “had a blast” skydiving near Milwaukee last year. He jokingly said she should try it.
“I got to thinking about it, and I asked him if he would do it with me,” she said. “Then I called my daughters (Christine and Karen) and asked them if they would like to do it. They got all excited and said yes. Next thing we knew, we had a family plan to do it this summer. We tried to schedule it in June at a family wedding in the Chicago area, but it didn’t work out. So I went online and found this place near Rochelle and scheduled it for July 31, the day after my birthday.”
By the way, I digress here to say that Mary Lou has done all the fascinating balloon, hunting, fishing, repelling, and travel things listed above. So she felt well prepared for this skydiving experience.
“We were able to work out our schedules to get together in Rochelle on my birthday weekend,” she said. “Because I have traveled a lot and done a lot of unusual things, I wasn’t really nervous as we went up in the plane. I was just a bit apprehensive because it was my first time.
“To psych myself up, I thought, ‘Thousands of people do this all the time,’ and so I tried to forget the risk or anything like that.”
It was a tandem jump at 14,000 feet, with an instructor attached to the back of the jumper. “He asked me if I wanted to pull the cord on my chute, but I asked him to do it,” Mary Lou said. She watched one of her daughters go first. And then suddenly her instructor gave a push, and out they went.
“The thing you notice first is the wind. It’s very loud and powerful, and it pushes you. I could talk with my instructor only by shouting loudly. When you go out, a small chute is opened to stabilize you, so you’re facing the ground. The first 1,000 feet is free fall and took less than a minute. Then there’s a little bit of a jerk at 13,000 feet, and our main chute opened. You have the felling of going back up, and then the rest of the dive is real calm, and the view is gorgeous.
“All of us had a lot of fun, and we said we’d do it again,” she added.
She paid extra for a video and still pictures as mementos. “Both cameras were attached to a photographer’s helmet. He jumped with us and took pictures of the free fall; then he steered himself down quickly to be on the ground when I landed, and he took pictures of that,” said Mary Lou.
On the ground, Mary Lou continues to pursue a two-part, hard-working career. She works out of her home as a travel agent, and she also is a hostess at Millrose Restaurant in Barrington. She came to Sun City in 2008 from Arlington Heights. She is a native of Chicago and has lived in the Chicago-area suburbs all of her adult life.
It won’t be long, she concluded, before she is off on another adventure or travel to some exotic place. After all, that’s what “try-anything-once” people do.