Senior's giant double leap for cancer
BILL Lennon didn't think twice about how he wanted to celebrate his 90th birthday, but he did jump twice - skydiving over Lake Macquarie to raise funds for the Cancer Council NSW.
The East Gosford resident raised more than $2000 for prostate cancer research, having been sponsored in part by none other than adventurer Dick Smith.
He believes he's the first 90-year-old to skydive twice in one day - certainly the first with a pacemaker!
But Bill's heart specialist and Mick Hill, from Wyoming's Grange Hotel, Bill's other two major sponsors, had no doubt he could do it.
Despite being scared of heights, Bill said skydiving had always been on his bucket list.
He completed his first dive last Christmas Eve, surprising his family with the video on Christmas Day.
He said he had told Fay, his wife of 66 years, his plan but she had declined to go along, saying she didn't want to see him get hurt, so "I went up on my own and just did it".
Although he admits that looking down from 13,000 feet, with his own feet dangling over the side of the plane, he did wonder "What have I done?".
It was just a couple of weeks later that he ran into an old mate who he discovered had been diagnosed with prostate cancer.
That was enough for Bill. He decided on the birthday fundraiser - originally comprising one jump.
However, a few days after promoting his cause on Macca's Australia All Over ABC talkback radio program, Bill received a call saying Dick Smith had been listening and wanted to sponsor him.
"I nearly fell over!" he said.
"He's done everything - hot air ballooning across Australia and the first solo helicopter flight around the world, but he's never skydived ...
"That's why I did two jumps, because I wanted to make him proud by setting the bar as high as I could."
With his birthday on February 12, the team at Skydive Australia Newcastle suggested he complete the jumps on March 12, but Bill was adamant he wanted to do it on his birthday.
So up he went, with two dives in 50 minutes (9.20am and 10.10am), making three in 50 days.
Bill said having lived on the Coast since 1954 he's seen it change a lot, but he's never had a view quite like that floating around above it for about six minutes after the original 60-second freefall.
"It's the most exhilarating and the most scary 60 seconds I've ever had in my life," Bill said.
And he's had quite a life.
Quitting school at 13 and lying that he was 15 in order to get a job to help care for his five siblings, his career has included cutting sugar cane, working on a trawler to the Solomon Islands, at Queensland State Forestry, and finally as a driver for ABC Radio in a job that was meant to last three months but continued for nine years.
For the future, Bill again has his sights set high.
He is now aiming to break a South Australian woman's recent record-breaking jump at 102 years old ... and he'll keep jumping until he makes it.