Longtime Beaufortonian goes skydiving for her 84th birthday + video

loberle@islandpacket.comJune 1, 2014 

Correction: This story has been updated to indicate Lucille Lipsitz' place of residence as the independent living center at Bloom at Belfair.

As the single-engine airplane appeared out of a cloud, a black dot fell from it.

Free falling against a backdrop of cumulus clouds, the "dot" quickly made its way toward the ground. Seven seconds later, a string rose from it.

Then, a yellow parachute expanded, causing more than a dozen onlookers on the ground to breathe a collective sigh of relief.

Lucille Lipsitz was flying.

For her 84th birthday Sunday, the Bluffton resident and Beaufort native traveled to Walterboro to skydive.

She had always wanted to do it. A frequent flier, Lipsitz had looked out the window of an airplane window many times and wished she could reach out and touch the sky.

"I'd love to just be in the clouds," Lipsitz said Friday.

More than a dozen friends and family came to watch Sunday -- among them, her sister from Philadelphia; her brother and sister-in-law from Charleston; her daughter from Palm Bay, Fla.; her son from Beaufort; and half a dozen residents from Bloom at Belfair, an independent-living facility where Lipsitz lives.

She had to be cleared by her doctor before she could go.

Billy Carter, owner of Skydive Walterboro, said he has had several people in their 80s skydive before. He said it's more about a person's physical condition than his or her age.

"There's people in their 40s that don't get cleared by their doctors to jump, and people in their 80s that do," Carter said.

Lipsitz said her family probably thought she had gone crazy. One of her sons wouldn't come, scared at the thought of his mother jumping out of an airplane.

"He knows he couldn't stop me," Lipsitz said.

Joe Lipsitz, her husband and the former owner of Lipsitz Department Store in downtown Beaufort, passed away in January.

"If he could see me now, he'd think I'd really lost my mind," Lucille Lipsitz said.

She said her younger self probably wouldn't have skydived, but age has changed her perspective.

"I feel like I've lived a full life," Lipsitz said. "Now, if anything happens, I've lived my life and I have no regrets."

Dressed in gray elastic-waist pants and a black Nike shirt with "Just do it" written across it -- a shirt she bought for the occasion -- Lipsitz was strapped into her harness by her skydiving instructor. The instructor explained that once in the air, Lipsitz would be attached to another instructor, who would skydive with her in tandem.

"You doing OK?" he paused to ask.

"Oh yes, I'm just ready to go," Lipsitz said, a smile spreading across her face.

Takeoff was nearing, and friends and family in the facility's hangar sang happy birthday as Lipsitz boarded the plane.

The crowd then gathered on the nearby field where Lipsitz would land. Some applauded when they spotted Lipsitz, her yellow parachute zigzagging its way down.

"The view was beautiful. The clouds were beautiful," Lipsitz said afterward. "You feel like you're really falling."

When she landed, she assured everyone, "I'm all right, just a little wobbly."

"I'd probably do it again," she said later. "But the next item on my list is to fly with the Blue Angels," the U.S. Navy's flight-demonstration team.

"Then I'll get my real wings."

Follow reporter Laura Oberle at twitter.com/IPBG_Laura.

Related content Former downtown Beaufort store owner, Joe Lipsitz, dies

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