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The following is an archived video story. The text content of that video story is available below for reference. The original video has been deleted and is no longer available.

Bush 41 lands 'safely, softly' following 90th birthday parachute jump


KENNEBUNKPORT, Maine - Former President George H.W. Bush celebrated his 90th birthday on Thursday by making a tandem parachute jump near his summer home in coastal Maine, delivering on a vow he made five years ago even though he can no longer use his legs.

The nations 41st president jumped from a helicopter at 6,000 feet harnessed to Sgt. 1st Class Mike Elliott, a retired member of the Golden Knights, the Armys parachute team, near Kennebunkport. Elliott guided Bush to a gentle landing five years ago.

On Thursday morning, the helicopter picked up Bush outside his home, known as Walkers Point. His family transported him from his wheelchair to the chopper, then sang Happy Birthday before it took off.

Bush could later be seen floating to the ground using a red, white and blue parachute. He landed safely near St. Anns Church, where friends and family had gathered, according to a spokesman, out of the sight of reporters.

He had a big smile for the crowd. You could tell he was exhilarated, said Diana Untermeyer, a family friend from Houson. Hes an amazing man. This is just another sign of that. I think that like most of America, our family loves him to pieces. It was just a real thrill to do this again.

Witnesses said Bush was greeted with a hug and a kiss from his wife, Barbara, and a hug from his son George. The family then left the landing zone without talking to reporters stationed nearby.

Hundreds of people had gathered on the rocky coast near the church to get a glimpse of the jump.

He has a lot of courage. We need more like him, said David Morris, 79, of Melrose, Massachusetts. Hes one of several onlookers gathered on rocky coast outside church to watch.

I think its wonderful. I hope I can jump out of a plane at 90, said Carol Schierl, 75, of Green Bay, Wisconsin,

The jump was kept secret partly to give Bush himself the option of bagging it.

Spokesman Jim McGrath said the former president likes both a surprise and an adrenaline rush.

Its vintage George Bush, McGrath said. Its that passion for life. Its wanting to set a goal, wanting to achieve it. Im sure part of it is sending a message to others that even in your retirement years you can still find challenges.

The first time Bush jumped from an airplane was when his plane was shot down in World War II over the Pacific. Later, he decided to jump from a plane of his own accord and marked his 75th, 80th and 85th birthdays by skydiving.

He said on his 85th birthday that hed like to do it again on his 90th.

Other birthday festivities included a private dinner with more than 200 relatives and friends, including some from his White House days: press secretary Marlin Fitzwater, White House counsel Boyden Gray and political director Ron Kaufman, McGrath said. His children, including former President George W. Bush and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, will be there, McGrath said.

Kennebunkport is a special place for the president. As a boy, he visited the family home at Walkers Point every summer, except during World War II. The retreat was later dubbed his summer White House.

During his presidential years, Bush was known for jogging, tennis and fast-paced golf, but he now uses a wheelchair or scooter because of a form of parkinsonism that has robbed him of use of his legs. He signed the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990.

Hes lost his mobility, but he hasnt lost his heart. Hes still the genuine person that weve come to cherish, said Ken Raynor, a friend and pro at the Cape Arundel Golf Club.

While his activities are now limited, Bush still fulfills his need for speed on his boat, Fidelity. Hes always loved going fast. He loves the speed. He loves the adrenaline, McGrath said.


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