Man celebrates 75th birthday by jumping out of plane

Monday, April 30th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

(CUSHING) - This isn't your grandpa's 75th birthday present. Or maybe it is.

Haskell Potter celebrated three quarters of a century of living over the weekend by jumping out of a plane 10,000 feet above the Cushing airport _ a gift from his daughter, Dellia Dion.

His last previous jump was in 1947 from 5,000 feet over Durant to help advertise a crop-dusting business.

``What an adrenaline rush to do something like this one more time!'' Potter said.

Potter, of Oklahoma City, said he was inspired by former President Bush celebrating his 75th birthday in 1999 by jumping from 13,000 feet over College Station, Texas.

``If he (Bush) could do it, I certainly could do it,'' Potter said.

``Elderly Oklahomans are so much better off if they try to do something again that they did earlier in life - or just be willing to try something completely new,'' he said.

Potter had his share of practice, though it was decades ago.

In the Army in 1946 and 1947, Potter made 80 jumps from C-47s, once from an altitude of only 400 feet.

``I was never scared of it. I enjoyed the jumps,'' Potter said.

After the Army, Potter pondered a job as a smoke jumper in the American West but the Forest Service didn't accept married men.

He returned to Stratford and began building houses with his father, but his love of skydiving remained.

When he married Laura, his wife of 53 years, her wedding dress was made from a parachute.

As life went on, he started a construction company and raised children. He thought his parachuting days were over.

That was before Dion surprised Potter with the $175 skydiving present.

``My dad's worked hard his whole life, never taking but always giving of himself to anyone in need,'' Dion said.

``So, something special was needed for his big 75th birthday. And for the first time in a very long time, he's absolutely thrilled at getting a taste of his youth back,'' Dion said.

But there was a catch, Potter said.

``I sure thought she was joking at first. But I told her that if her daddy was going to jump, she had to jump, too,'' Potter said.

Potter's grandson Dustin Stoabs also jumped.

Potter said the jump will probably be his last, with his work, five children, 10 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren taking up most of his time.

But who knows?

``I feel so good,'' Potter said. ``It's never too late to put a little excitement in your life.''