TITUSVILLE, Fla. - The sky was literally the limit for Ivan Briggs, of Titusville, who didn’t miss a beat when he had the opportunity to celebrate his upcoming 90th birthday by jumping out of a plane.
According to News 6 partner Florida Today, Briggs, a big President George H.W. Bush fan, knew exactly how he wanted to celebrate his 90th. It wasn’t over cake and ice cream, it was over Kennedy Space Center as he plunged from thousands of feet in the air at the Skydive Space Center last week. Bush famously made the jump for his 90th birthday as well.
“Age has never been a problem for me,” Briggs said. “If you’re feeling well and you’re able to do the things you want to do. Age does not become a variable.”
So when Briggs' son, Raymond, called with the opportunity to take the big jump, it was a no-brainer.
“That would be great,” Briggs told his son.
So, the two loaded up and made their way to Arthur Dunn Airpark in Titusville, where Briggs said he wasn’t the least bit afraid.
“They (instructors) set the stage for the jump and so there was little concern or fear or anxiety. It was more like 'Let’s get going,' ” he said.
The plane went up and Ivan took the step of a lifetime out of the door and into thin air. Briggs' wife of 65 years, Carol, watched from below with a handful of other family members as Briggs sailed through the clouds.
"Because I had mentioned it so often to my wife, there wasn’t a trace of concern on her part," said Briggs, describing his wife's view of the jump. "It was more 'I’m glad it’s over.' "
For the first minute and 15 seconds of the jump, Briggs free-fell, strapped to one of the center's instructors.
"For a moment you’re not sure you can breathe because of the pressure coming at you, but there’s no real fear, you’re just amazed at what’s happening," said Briggs.
But as the parachute deployed, Briggs described the setting as "breathtaking."
"You’re literally floating and then you look around, there's the Space Center. There's the area where you live. There's the Indian River," he said. "The view on a clear day is just fantastic."
As he came back down to earth, Briggs lifted his feet, and like he was bobsledding, skid onto a grassy field. His first reaction?
"I’m trying to think of the word," he said. "Awesome is probably good. Breathtaking. Exciting."
His family was all smiles as he walked back to the stands where guests can watch from afar.
"He plays tennis, he walks over two miles in the morning at 6 a.m. He’s involved in Kiwanis, a number of things. He’s an amazing specimen," said Briggs' son, Don, who beamed at his father's accomplishment. "He's got more energy than anyone you know."
Since Briggs' jump, his granddaughter, Kristen Briggs, posted the video of his jump on Facebook where it was been viewed almost 7,000 times. Hundreds of comments of praise and admiration poured in. Ivan Briggs officially turns 90 on Feb. 3, but seized the opportunity for the jump when it came along.
Briggs has lived in Titusville since 1984. He's a WW II Navy veteran, former General Electric employee, Kennedy Space Center tour bus driver, Kiwanis Club president and member of the Salvation Army. The committed and enthusiastic senior also picks up trash every single day during his morning walk between Garden Street and 405 on Singleton Avenue in Titusville.
He's a father of four, grandfather of 13 and great-grandfather of six. Briggs is also a member of the First Baptist Church of Mims and has received a lifetime achievement award from the Kiwanis Club, the highest honor the club can acknowledge. So while the jump was hugely impressive to many, it was just another check mark on a lifetime of accomplishments.
His secret to a happy and healthy life?
"I would say a positive attitude and perhaps the most important is my strong Christian belief that there is a purpose to life and that the Lord has a plan for your life and if you’re willing to follow him, that plan will come true," he said, modestly. "It’s that combination."
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