Free falling

For her 80th birthday, Barbara Schiner decided to jump out of a plane at 10,000 feet. (Photos provided)

Barbara Schiner is high energy and fearless. So, for her 80th birthday, she wasn’t going to sit back and reflect on the good old days. No, she decided to jump out of a plane.

Well, not jump so much as lean out and fall.

“It was marvelous,” the Baltimore resident said after her June 11 jump. “If you don’t have any responsibilities it’s wonderful. I taught ballet for years — what if I broke my leg? I was always so responsible, but now I’m retired.”

Not that retirement is a laid-back affair for Barbara and her husband, Kent Schiner. Barbara goes to the gym every morning (9 to 10) “to burn off some of my energy,” works with various causes and stops by her grandson’s place during the week to let his dog out.

Kent, a financial adviser and former president of B’nai B’rith, still takes clients. Two days after Barbara’s jump, they embarked to a monthlong cruise through Asia.

“I love everything I do,” Barbara said. “But I’m going to do something that doesn’t help anyone. I do all these things, but I decided I’d do something just for me, and I wouldn’t let anyone talk me out of it.”

The jump almost didn’t happen. With their cruise looming, Barbara was originally scheduled to jump in early May for her birthday. When the weather didn’t cooperate, her jump was pushed back to later in the month, which was also postponed due to bad weather.

On June 11 the weather was warm and clear and sunny, but there was another problem — Barbara hadn’t brought her ID.

Legally, the skydiving company couldn’t let her jump without it. So the 16 family members who had come to witness their mother, grandmother and great-grandmother freefall from thousands of feet leapt into action. She ended up with two copies of her license — one from neighbors who had a key to her house and sent along a photo, and the other from a grandson, a police officer who had retrieved a copy from the Motor Vehicle Administration.

“There was nothing that was going to discourage her,” said Kent, who does not like heights. (“He won’t even ride on the ferris wheel,” his wife revealed.)

Barbara was attached to a professional skydiver, “a lovely gentleman who says, ‘Let’s have some fun, Barbara,’ and I said, ‘I’m with you, baby!’”

More than just the impressiveness of jumping out of a plane at 80, Kent said what Barbara did was show her family that anything is possible if you have the determination and right attitude.

“I was very proud of her,” he said. “And envious because I would never have the guts to jump out of a plane 10,000 feet in the air.”

Barbara readily admits that skydiving isn’t for everyone, but to anyone who’s thought about it, her advice is to go for it.

There are no other major feats on her bucket list for now. After all, this one got her “damn close to heaven.” That’s hard to top.

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