- Associated Press - Monday, July 4, 2016

ELIZABETHTOWN, Pa. (AP) - Over the past half-century, Dave DeWolf has flung himself from the relative safety of an airplane, helicopter or hot-air balloon more than 13,000 times.

“I’m not jumping quite as much, not as hard-core as I used to be, but I’m still jumping,” DeWolf, of Elizabethtown, said Thursday. “But it’s fun, let’s face it.”

DeWolf, it should be noted, is 83 years old. He sounds a little rueful when he admits that age has slowed him down.

“I used to make 400 jumps a year, or more,” he says. “Now, if I make 125 to 150 a year, I’m happy. I can’t do it like I used to.

“For 83, I’m not in bad shape,” he adds. “But I am 83.”

This October, DeWolf will be inducted into the Skydiving Hall of Fame at a four-day event at a drop zone in Eloy, Arizona.

He will, of course, make a few jumps while he’s there.

He’ll be inducted along with five other people at a banquet Oct. 8. The event itself is a fundraiser, with money allocated for construction of a proposed Skydiving Museum in North Orlando, Florida.

The Hall of Fame, according to its promotional materials, “recognizes and honors those who, through leadership, innovation and/or outstanding achievements, have defined, promoted, inspired and advanced skydiving at the highest and sustained levels in the past, present and for future generations of skydivers.”

DeWolf, according to the release, “has probably trained more senior riggers, both military and recreational, than any other civilian in skydiving history.”

A parachute rigger is someone trained or licensed to pack, maintain or repair parachutes. These days, DeWolf repairs parachutes at his home in Elizabethtown.

“I never stopped”

DeWolf made his first jump, he says, on May 18, 1962, at Fort Knox, Kentucky. He was in the army and, although he wasn’t destined for airborne service, he got involved with a demonstration jump out of curiosity.

He jumped twice that day, he recalls.

“And I never stopped,” he says.

He made 27 jumps before leaving the service, he says. He got even more active as a civilian.

He has been on several age group world record skydives, including a record-breaking formation dive with the Jumpers Over Eighty Society.

DeWolf received the U.S. Parachute Association Gold Medal for Meritorious Service in 2001 and the Spirit of Parachutists Over Phorty Society Award in 2004. He was a founding member of both the Maytown Sport Parachute Club and the United Parachute Club.

He’s participated in numerous competitions over the years, he says, “although now it’s mostly just for fun.”

He can be found most Tuesday and Thursday evenings, plus weekends, at the Donegal Springs Airpark, where he jumps with members of the Maytown club.

He’s also jumped in drop zones as varied as New Zealand, Spain, Germany and Canada, as well as numerous sites in the United States.

Only about two dozen people in the U.S. have made more jumps than DeWolf.

He’s suffered several injuries over the years, including some broken legs and torn rotator cuffs. He’s seen two dozen people die because of parachuting mistakes.

“Just enjoy yourself”

A native of Philadelphia, DeWolf settled in Elizabethtown in 1977 after taking a pharmacy job with the Veterans Administration outpatient clinic in Harrisburg, he says.

Skydiving, says DeWolf, now retired, “keeps me out of trouble.”

It’s not cheap, he admits - “I always say, it costs you 200 bucks for your first jump and half your salary for the rest of your life,” he says.

But it’s worth it, he says.

“The rest of the world doesn’t count” when you’re in the sky, DeWolf says. “All the problems you have, they go away and you just enjoy yourself.”

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Online:

http://bit.ly/29BYm2d

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Information from: LNP, http://lancasteronline.com

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