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Flight of fancy

Each year, Leauise Graves climbs to new heights—then jumps!

Created date

September 20th, 2011

"I can t think of anyplace I haven t been, says Leauise Graves, who met her husband David while she was working for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Anchorage, Alaska, and he was in the Air Force. Not one to shy away from adventure, Leauise has tracked safari animals across Southern Africa, fished off the coast of New Zealand, and hiked through remote parts of Alaska. Naturally, she picked unfamiliar territory for her latest adrenaline rush.

Looking up

I ve always wanted to skydive, but I just haven t had the chance, says Leauise. After an Internet search of skydive operations in the Houston area turned up a handful of choices, Leauise chose Skydive Texas Beaches to orchestrate her adventure. She originally scheduled her jump in May, but a series of cloudy days prolonged the wait. I tried to jump five times before I actually did, says Leauise. I began to wonder if somebody was trying to tell me something. Finally, in mid-July, a break in the clouds gave her the opportunity she wanted. Because it was her first skydiving experience, Leauise strapped onto instructor Dave Hejl for a tandem jump.

We sailed through the air

With a handful of onlookers, including her youngest son, Ron, and friends August and Mary Look watching, Leauise climbed into a Cessna at Sport Flyers Airport in Brookshire, just west of Katy, and took off. As the aircraft climbed to 10,000 feet, Leauise had little time for second thoughts. The next thing I knew, Dave and I were sitting on a little ledge just outside the plane, she says. I thought I would be nervous, but I wasn t. We jumped off and sailed through the air. Exhilarated by the free fall, Leauise felt disappointed when Hejl pulled the chute. It was amazing to be rushing through the air at 120 miles an hour, she says. I told Dave I would have been happy to free fall the whole way down. He laughed and said it would be fun but then there wouldn t be a next time. Leauise declares there will definitely be a next time. She already plans to skydive again on her 86th birthday in February 2012.

Sharing the skies

I want to jump from 14,000 feet so I can have a longer freefall, says the spirited redhead, who may be sharing the skies the next time she jumps. Her adventure has sparked the interest of her friends and neighbors at Eagle s Trace, the Erickson Living community in West Houston where she lives. I didn t want a lot of attention so I tried to keep my skydive hush-hush, says Leauise. But word got out, and now people stop me in the hall to ask about it. I think I might have some company the next time I go up.