George H.W. Bush celebrates 90th birthday by making parachute jump

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George H.W. Bush celebrates 90th birthday by making parachute jump
Former President George H.W. Bush, strapped to Sgt. 1st Class Mike Elliott, a retired member of the Army's Golden Knights parachute team, prepare to land on the lawn at St. Anne's Episcopal Church while celebrating Bush's 90th birthday in Kennebunkport, Maine, Thursday, June 12, 2014. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
Former President George H.W. Bush, strapped to Sgt. 1st Class Mike Elliott, a retired member of the Army's Golden Knights parachute team, float to the ground during a tandem parachute jump near Bush's summer home in Kennebunkport, Maine, Thursday, June 12, 2014. Bush made the jump, his eighth, in celebration of his 90th birthday. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
Former President George H.W. Bush, strapped to Sgt. 1st Class Mike Elliott, a retired member of the Army's Golden Knights parachute team, float to the ground during a tandem parachute jump near Bush's summer home in Kennebunkport, Maine, Thursday, June 12, 2014. Bush made the jump, his eighth, in celebration of his 90th birthday. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
Former President George H.W. Bush, left, strapped to Sgt. 1st Class Mike Elliott, a retired member of the Army's Golden Knights parachute team, float to the ground during a tandem parachute jump near Bush's summer home in Kennebunkport, Maine, Thursday, June 12, 2014. Bush made the jump, his eighth, in celebration of his 90th birthday. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
Former President George H.W. Bush, left, strapped to Sgt. 1st Class Mike Elliott, a retired member of the Army's Golden Knights parachute team, land on the lawn at St. Anne's Episcopal Church after making a tandem parachute jump near Bush's summer home in Kennebunkport, Maine, Thursday, June 12, 2014. Bush made the jump, his eighth, in celebration of his 90th birthday. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
Former President George H. W. Bush rides tandem with Sgt. Michael Elliott of the Army Golden Knights parachute team as he celebrates his 85th birthday with a parachute jump, Friday, June 12, 2009, over Kennebunkport, Maine. (AP Photo/Army Golden Knights, SSG Joe Abeln)
Former President George H. W. Bush rides tandem with Army Sgt. Michael Elliott of the Army Golden Knights parachute team as he celebrates his 85th birthday with a parachute jump, Friday, June 12, 2009, in Kennebunkport, Maine. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
Former President George Bush, lower center, parachutes in a tandem jump with Sgt. Bryan Schnell, center, a member of the U.S. Army Golden Knights, Sunday, June 13, 2004 over Bush's presidential library in College Station, Texas. The jump was part of his 80th birthday celebration. (AP Photos/ US Army, Golden Knights)
In this photo provided by the U.S. Army Golden Knights, Former President George H.W. Bush is shown during his free fall with U.S. Army Golden Knights parachute team member, Sgt. 1st Class Mike Elliott, as he made his entrance to his presidential museum during a rededication ceremony in College Station, Texas, on Saturday, Nov. 10, 2007. (AP Photo/U.S. Army, Sgt. 1st Class Kevin Mcdaniel)
Former President George H.W. Bush, lower center, waves as he parachutes in a tandem jump with Sgt. Bryan Schnell, a member of the U.S. Army Golden Knights, Sunday, June 13, 2004, over Texas. The jump was part of his 80th birthday celebration. Others are unidentified. (AP Photos/U.S. Army Golden Knights)
Former President George Bush parachutes down to his landing spot near his presidential library and museum Wednesday, June 9, 1999, in College Station, Texas. Bush jumped as part of a celebration for his 75th birthday. He turns 75 Saturday, June 12. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Former President George Bush heads towards the ground while making a parachute jump over the U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground outside of Yuma, Ariz., Tuesday, March 25, 1997. Bush joined members of the U.S. Golden Knight precision parachute team. (AP Photo/Mike Nelson, Pool)
Former President George Bush prepares to land as members of his jump team get ready to assist Tuesday, March 25, 1997, at the U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground outside Yuma, Ariz. Bush made a parachute jump from 12,500 feet with members of the U.S. Golden Knights parachute team. (AP Photo/Mike Nelson, Pool)
FILE--George Bush is shown in an undated U.S. Navy handout containing a photograph of the former president from his Navy service in 1942. Half a century after he bailed out of a World War II bomber, Bush fulfilled a promise to himself by strapping on a parachute and making a recreational jump from a civilian plane 12,500 feet over the Army Yuma Proving Ground Tuesday, March 25, 1997. Bush made the promise that he would someday skydive just for fun in 1944 as he bailed out of a bullet-torn torpedo bomber over the Pacific Ocean. (AP Photo/U.S. Navy)
Former President George Bush heads towards the ground while making a parachute jump over the U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground outside of Yuma, Ariz., Tuesday, March 25, 1997. Bush joined members of the U.S. Golden Knight precision parachute team. (AP Photo/Mike Nelson, Pool)
Former President George Bush gets a hug from his wife Barbara after he made a successful parachute jump at the U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground outside of Yuma, Ariz., Tuesday, March 25, 1997. Bush, using a civilian sport parachute, descended from 12,500 feet with members of the U.S. Army Golden Knight parachute team. (AP Photo/Mike Nelson, Pool)
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By David Sharp

KENNEBUNKPORT, Maine (AP) - 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 nation's 41st president jumped from a helicopter at about 6,000 feet harnessed to Sgt. 1st Class Mike Elliott, a retired member of the Golden Knights, the Army's parachute team. Elliott guided Bush to a gentle landing five years ago.

"That's what he wanted for his 90th birthday and that's what he got," Elliott said. "It's a very good feeling to be involved and be able to turn back time. He's probably feeling younger now than ever."

The helicopter picked up Bush outside his Kennebunkport home, known as Walker's Point. His family transported him from his wheelchair to the chopper, then sang "Happy Birthday" before it took off.

Bush later floated to the ground using a red, white and blue parachute and landed near St. Ann's Church, where friends and family had gathered, out of the sight of reporters. Elliott said Bush's foot got tangled up underneath him during the landing, causing him to tumble forward onto the ground. A spokesman later said the former president was feeling "fine."

"He had a big smile for the crowd. You could tell he was exhilarated," said Diana Untermeyer, a family friend from Houston. "He's 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 kiss from his wife, Barbara, and a hug from his son George. The family left the landing zone without talking to reporters.

Hundreds of people had gathered along rocks 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.

"I think it's 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 until Thursday morning 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.

"It's vintage George Bush," McGrath said. "It's that passion for life. It's wanting to set a goal, wanting to achieve it. I'm 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. Thursday marked his eight jump.

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 Walker's Point every summer, except during World War II. The retreat was later dubbed his "summer White House."

George H.W. Bush's Birthday Skydives

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.

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