Posted Online: April 16, 2013, 6:49 pm
This 94-year-old is always up for a new challenge
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By John Marx, firstname.lastname@example.org
Bud Benner moves to the edge of his easy chair, turns both palms to the sky and shrugs.
Bud Benner, 94, of Rock Island, goes skydiving over Cape Canaveral, Fla., in January 2013. He's doing a tandem jump with a professional from the Skydive Space Center.
"I have no idea how you are supposed to act at (age) 94,'' says the Rock Island man. "As soon as I know how I'm supposed to act and feel, I'll get in line. Until then, I'll do it my way.''
And his way is the exciting way.
In addition to playing golf five times a week, Mr. Benner recently found time to ride in a NASCAR race car at 165 mph, make three zipline runs at 800 feet and eight at 300 feet and take a helicopter ride through the Grand Canyon. All in the last nine months.
And he also went skydiving over Cape Canaveral, Fla., in January.
It's been two years since Mr. Benner lost his sweetheart, Nelda, his bride of 70 years. While there is no replacing something so near and dear to him, Mr. Benner knew he could not sit still after her death.
"Having grandkids and great-grandkids who know I like to go and do has helped,'' Mr. Benner said of life without his Nelda. "They give me neat things to do as gifts and find challenges for me. You never really get past losing someone so special, but it's good to find things to do to take your mind off it. I'm pretty good at going and doing.''
Since he has a stock-car-racing background, the NASCAR ride was exciting but pedestrian for Mr. Benner. The zipline rides got his attention, and the flight through the tight rifts of the Grand Canyon was beautiful beyond belief.
But free-falling at 10,000 feet, the rush of a parachute opening and the calmness of the descen, topped everything.
"There is no other feeling like it,'' Mr. Benner said of skydiving. "When the chute opens, though, your breath leaves you, and it doesn't come back for a minute. Then you see everything as you float to the ground. Amazing is what it is.''
At six years shy of 100, Mr. Benner set records for the oldest person to try the zipline at a facility at Lake Tahoe, Nev., and the oldest to use the jump station at Cape Canaveral.
"Beat the zipline record by 10 years,'' he said with a laugh. "Got framed certificates from both places.''
The aforementioned thrills, it should be noted, were not part of his bucket list. There is one thing on that list.
"I want to fly one of those ultralights,'' Mr. Benner said, referring to lightweight, one- or two-seat fixed-wing aircraft. "That's on my bucket list. I miss my flying days. I'll probably jump out of a plane again, but the ultralight is next.''
Because that is what 94-year-olds like Bud Benner are supposed to do.
Columnist John Marx can be reached at (309) 757-8388 or email@example.com.