By Caleb Slinkard
On July 14, 80-year-old Sonny Campbell will be participating in an event that few men and women half (or a quarter) his age have the courage to do — jump out of an airplane.
Joining him on the sky dive will be his daughter, Jeannie Goerlitz, and his grandaughter, Jamie Lesher and her husband, Lee. The group will jump with Skydive Tandem Greenville, LLC, owned by Hank Schraeder.
“It was my job to find the place, and I started looking around on the Internet,” Jeannie, who lives in Richardson, said. “Hank’s place looked like an ideal situation.”
Initially, Jeannie was not going to jump.
“I got hoodwinked,” Jeannie said, laughing. “Jamie called Hank to let him know that she and Lee would be jumping as well. They started talking, and Hank said that he thought it would be a great idea if they could talk me into doing it, because it would be a three-generation jump.”
This won’t be the first skydiving experience for Sonny, who jumped out of planes as a member of the national guard. Originally from South Carolina, Sonny worked in the telephone industry and moved his family to Plano in the mid-’70s. According to Jeannie, he is a ham radio operator and skydiving was on his bucket list.
The sky dive was originally set to take place on Sonny’s birthday, which was June 15, but the event was postponed due to plane maintenance.
“His birthday was in June, on Father’s Day, and we had it all planned to jump then,” Jeannie said. “But on Friday morning, Hank called and said a plane was down due to repairs, so we weren’t able to do it.”
The surpise birthday party with family and friends that Jeannie had planned for Sonny at Hank’s lodge fell through, but they were able to hold the party at Jeannie’s house.
“We had party favors that were army men with parachutes that we threw from the second floor of my house,” she said. “That was the closest we got to jumping that day.”
But, even after postponing, Jeannie and her family plan to celebrate after they skydive.
“We saved the champagne, so we’ll pop the cork when we all land safely on the ground,” she said.
Jeannie is still a little anxious about the jump, which will take place around 3:30 p.m. on Sunday after an hour-and-a-half of training.
“I’ve been nervous,” she admitted. “I’ve never really done anything like this before. I’ve been pumping myself up.”