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Birthday jump a piece of cake for 84-year-old 'Handsome Harry'

August 28, 2012

Harry Beechler hugs his great-granddaughter Abby Webb at the Plymouth Airport before his skydiving experience Saturday.

PLYMOUTH — For his 84th birthday, a man who claims his name is “Handsome Harry” decided to celebrate in an unusual way. He wanted to skydive.
“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, ever since my son did it,” said Beechler. He and his wife, Dolores, went in a hot air balloon when they were first married and that was enough for Dolores.
“I would never do this,” she said. “But it was no shock when he told me he wanted to skydive. He’s very adventurous.”
Beechler had never before gone to these extremes. He tried to skydive last year for his birthday, but didn’t meet the weight requirements.
“He had to lose ten pounds!” said Dolores. Though Dolores was excited for Harry, his granddaughter, Jennifer Russell from Bremen, wasn’t as thrilled.
“I kept slipping him McDonald’s gift cards all year so he wouldn’t lose the weight,” said Russell. “He managed to anyways.”
A group of family and close friends gathered at the airport in Plymouth Saturday to watch Beechler jump.
One of these people was Beechler’s ten year-old great granddaughter, Alex Webb. “The only way to describe him is an absolute crazy man,” said Webb. “But I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Beechler went up in the plane at 3:30 Saturday afternoon. The plan was that he and the instructor would free-fall for 40 seconds before pulling the parachute and then drift slowly for five minutes.
“It was like applying the brakes,” said Beechler. “We were falling at 120 miles per hour, then all of a sudden we were barely moving.” ‘
He also said the moment when he questioned what he was doing was when he looked at his feet and the ground was 1,000 feet below.
“I had a death grip on the sides (of the plane),” said Beechler. “But then the instructor gave me a little push and we were plummeting towards earth.”
Beecher’s favorite part of the jump was the seconds of free fall right before he pulled the string to release the parachute.
“I would go again, definitely,” he said. “After you’ve been married 57 years, nothing scares you.”
He and Dolores are celebrating their anniversary in October.
“We’re going on a vacation,” Beechler announced. “But we’ll stay on the ground!”

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