05/23/04 — Skydiving at 75

View Archive

Skydiving at 75

By Sam Atkins
Published in News on May 23, 2004 2:07 AM

Adrenaline rushed through Lillian Galloway's body. She clinched her fists. Sweat beaded on her forehead.

As she looked 14,700 feet down from a twin-engine airplane, there was only one thing left to do.


And that was how she came to fulfill her wish -- for her 75th birthday.

Mrs. Galloway and her husband, Ray, live in Goldsboro and have done many adventurous things together in their 53 years of marriage.

They have traveled to the Midwestern United States to go skiing and have done mission work in Bangladesh and other countries. Galloway flies a glider in competition, and she received her pilot's license in the 1970s, although she rarely uses it.

But skydiving at 75?

She is not sure where she got the desire.

She remembers lying on the couch about a month ago and announcing to her husband that she wanted to go skydiving for her 75th birthday.

He was surprised, but soon realized she was serious. He decided to help her achieve her goal.

Galloway flies a glider out of Louisburg, and he contacted Carolina Sky Sports there. They arrived at the airport on the morning of Mother's Day, along with their children, who live in Cary and Wilmington.

Soon she was up in the plane.

Before the jump, the skydivers were reminded to keep their arms up and to arch their bodies while falling. They were equipped with an altimeter, padded helmet and goggles.

Mrs. Galloway was going to make a tandem jump. That means she was paired with an instructor in a dual harness, from takeoff to landing.

After the plane ascended to 14,700 feet, it was time to jump. She and her instructor were soon falling out of the sky.

The wind rushed past their bodies at 120 mph. The ground came closer and closer -- 8,000 feet, 7,000 feet, 6,000 feet.

Then whoosh!

The parachute spread out.

The speed dropped quickly to 35 mph. They were floating down on a parachute built for two.

Mrs. Galloway kept her eyes on the ground. Another skydiver had to grab her by the arm to get her attention, so he could take a picture.

The jump took all of five minutes.

Mrs. Galloway said the jump was a lot smoother than she had expected, although the wind did cause her mouth to go extremely dry.

Having a professional instructor attached to her made the experience more comfortable. "I knew that he was in control," she said.

She said her strong faith in God helped her go through with it.

"He wouldn't let me do anything too crazy," she added.

She described the landing as being similar to an out-of-body experience. Her legs were a little wobbly due to the adrenaline rush, she added.

Her family was cheering her on all the way, and her daughter asked jokingly if it was now a tradition that all of the women in the family have to skydive when they turn 75.

"They just couldn't get over it," Mrs. Galloway said.

She said she was tired by the end of the day, but the experience was well worth it. She conquered her slight fear of heights and proved to herself that she could do it.

"I am just grateful and blessed that I could accomplish it," she said. "I was the most surprised at how fun it was."

She bought a video of her experience that she can watch over and over to relive the moment.

"It was my own achievement," she said. "That is what made it so special."