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Dorothy Hoffner is my new hero. The Chicago native proved age is just a number when she attempted to break the record for “world’s oldest skydiver.” Sadly, the story has a bittersweet ending.

One incredible aspect of Hoffner’s story is when she began skydiving: she took her first jump at a spry 100 years old. On her first dive she had to be pushed out of the aircraft, but ended up loving it. When she looked up the Guinness World Record for a tandem skydive (a dive tethered to an instructor) she found it held by 103-year-old Linnéa Ingegärd Larsson from Sweden.

Fast-forward to 104 years old and Hoffner felt ready to jump again. She signed up with Skydive Chicago, and one Sunday she took the trip 85 miles north of town to board the plane. Hoffner shuffled up to the plane, left her walker on the runway, and climbed aboard.

This time, she was much more gung-ho, even shouting, “Let’s go, let’s go, Geronimo!” from her seat.

A parachute instructor tightens the harness straps another skydiver wears.
Skydivers prepare | Yuriy Pozdnikov via iStockPhoto

When the plane reached 13,500 feet, Hoffner led the charge, jumping out first. She and her instructor completed a somersalt and settled into a dive towards the farms below. Video of the record dive shows her smiling peacefully as they plummet earthward.

Seven minutes later, the instructor pulled the parachute and the two of them landed in a grassy field. The crowd arrived to congratulate Hoffner, even carrying her walker with them.

When asked how it felt to be back on the ground she said, “Wonderful.” Then she added, “But it was wonderful up there. The whole thing was delightful, wonderful, couldn’t have been better.”

Someone asked Hoffner how she feels now that she’s a world record holder and she quipped, “Old.”

Two skydivers tethered together parachute towards the ground.
Tandem skydive jump | German-skydiver via iStockPhoto

The Guinness World Records organization then began going over all the evidence of Hoffner’s jump before officially bestowing the record on her. Sadly, Dorthy Hoffner died in her sleep at the Brookdale Senior Living center eight days later, before officially receiving the record.

Brookdale said, “We were thrilled to see her continue to live with passion and purpose, skydiving earlier this month at 104 and ultimately proving that age is just a number. She will be greatly missed by our entire community.”

Dorothy June Hoffner was just a few months away from her 105th birthday. She wasn’t survived by any children, but her obituary mentioned that she will be missed by her “good friend and sky diving buddy, Joe Conant,” who got her in to the sport and she’d described “like a grandson.”

See Dorothy Hoffner’s record dive in the video below: