At 84 years old, Lakewood resident Howard Bradley is the second oldest person ever to jump with Skydive Dallas.
Several months ago, he and longtime friend Bill Devoust flew to a jump location just east of Sherman in an experimental aircraft – a gyroplane – that Devoust built three years ago. Ernie Long, chief instructor at Skydive Dallas, was Bradley’s tandem partner for the jump. He describes Bradley as “a great student – a relaxed, fun, all-around nice guy who seemed familiar and comfortable with all the equipment and procedures.”
Although there can be complications when jumping with someone Bradley’s age, Long says these concerns were dispelled.
“When jumping with senior citizens, there are some flexibility and bone strength issues,” he says. “With these jumpers, I generally try to take the brunt of the landing. However, with Howard, he is in such excellent physical condition for his age, I wasn’t worried at all.”
Long says the near perfect weather conditions added to his confidence in Bradley’s jump. Two hours of training were required prior to the jump, which took place in a Cessna Caravan at 13,500 feet. Bradley experienced more than one minute of free-fall at a rate of 120 miles per hour before pulling the ripcord. Both the student and his instructor say the jump was a success.
“It was great fun,” Bradley says. “I imagine I’ll jump again sometime soon.”
Leaping out of an airplane at Bradley’s age is within the realm of the extraordinary, but when placed in the context of his entire life, it quickly becomes apparent that this jump is just one more in a series of extraordinary events that define Howard Bradley.
Bradley has lived in the same Lakewood home since 1959, where he as his wife Emma Lloyd raised a daughter, Judy. He’s a retired security analyst who developed security systems for retail conglomerates. He also was a licensed private investigator for 25 years.
Most recently, Bradley has devoted much of his time to volunteer work at the Visiting Nurses Association. His dedication to the VNA is borne out of the gratitude he feels for the assistance the organization provided in caring for his wife when she became terminally ill.
Following her death in 1985, he began volunteering regularly. Bradley volunteers up to 20 hours a week, but spends nearly 80 hours a week at VNA during the Holiday Project, an overwhelming effort during which he readies nearly 5,000 gift bags for distribution to terminally ill patients in Dallas.
“I believe that helping others is really the secret to life,” Bradley says. “You must stay busy to stay young. Being active, spending time with friends and family, this is the real source of life.”
In addition to his work at the VNA, Bradley stays busy helping other elderly residents in his neighborhood: “My neighbors always have a list of “Honey-Do’s” for me.”
Bradley spends much of his free time traveling the country in his motor home, restoring automobiles and riding his motorcycle. He enjoys gardening, is a Mason and a Shriner, has done extensive research on South American Indian tribes, and loves to tell stories about his grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
“The friends I’ve made over the years have literally made my life. If not for them, life simply wouldn’t be as much fun.”