What a way to celebrate 100 years!

‘I would do it again’: Calgary woman celebrates 100th birthday by skydiving


Updated: February 7, 2020

Calgarian Patricia MacKenzie celebrates her 100th birthday by skydiving in California. SHAWN FOUST / TEAM SKYDIVE MONTEREY BAY

When Patricia MacKenzie turned 90 a decade ago, she put off a dream of skydiving at the insistence of her husband and children.

But in fulfilling her 100th birthday vow last month, the energetic Calgarian tumbled out of a plane 20,000 feet above California.

“I never thought it was extraordinary … I suppose it seems a bit odd, but I just did it for me,” said the diminutive U.K. native in an interview from her southwest seniors’ residence.

“It was very pleasant, I would do it again — book it for next year if I’m alive.”

MacKenzie journeyed to Monterey, Calif., where she pushed her way to the skydiving aircraft in her walker and waved off a helmet and jumpsuit to take a plunge the day after her Jan. 10 centennial birthdate.

MacKenzie was calm during the flight, according to her son. SHAWN FOUST / TEAM SKYDIVE MONTEREY BAY, MARINA, CALIFORNIA.

Her children and grandchildren looked on with considerable trepidation, said son Julian Colbeck.

“I was terrified. We thought, ‘What have we done?’” said Colbeck, who lives in California.

“But she wasn’t nervous. On the plane, she looked like she was sitting at home watching TV.”

Lashed to Skydive Monterey instructor Steve (Raff) Rafferty, the two were the first jumpers to exit the plane under sunny skies with a light breeze.

“It was a free-fall for about 90 seconds and then the parachute luckily opened,” said MacKenzie.

“I glided down for close to 10 minutes. It was gentle and ethereal.”

Because of her fragile bones, the plan was for Rafferty’s body to absorb the landing and that’s exactly what happened, she said.

“We came down at 25 miles per hour. It’s quite fast but it was no problem,” said MacKenzie, who was a hotel owner in her younger years in England.

“It totally enjoyed it. They take great care of you.”

Having taken the plunge, MacKenzie says she’d like to do it again. JPG

Colbeck said three years after the death of his mother’s husband, his and his siblings’ opposition to the jump softened.

“When you reach the age of 100, really, you deserve to do what you want to do. You run out of excuses of not doing it,” he said.

The unlikely adventure, he said, is typical of a woman who lived through the Second World War Nazi blitz of England and of someone who’s never been inactive.

“Those people tend to have faced danger,” he said. “It’s really a dramatic manifestation of that attitude — she’s fully engaged.”

His mother’s late husband Ian, the last of three, “would have been proud now that she’s done it and is safe,” said Colbeck.

And the son said he fully expects his mother to take a second free-falling plunge.

Said the senior parachutist: “It was a good idea … I’m awfully glad I did it.”