George H. W. Bush skydives for 90th birthday, fulfilling a goal he made years ago

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George H. W. Bush skydives for 90th birthday, fulfilling a goal he made years ago
KENNEBUNKPORT, ME - JUNE 12: Former President George H. W. Bush celebrated his 90th birthday with a tandem skydive, landing on the lawn of St. Anne's church in Kennebunkport on Thursday, June 12, 2014. MAINE OUT (Photo by Carl D. Walsh/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)
KENNEBUNKPORT, ME - JUNE 12: Former President George H. W. Bush celebrated his 90th birthday with a tandem skydive, landing on the lawn of St. Anne's church in Kennebunkport on Thursday, June 12, 2014. MAINE OUT (Photo by Carl D. Walsh/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)
KENNEBUNKPORT, ME - JUNE 12: Dorothy Bartley and her son Brian Bartley had a clue that President Bush was going to skydive today on his 90th birthday, and were prepared with sign outside their restaurant Bartley's Dockside Dining, where the Bushes have been long time customers. When the former president jumped on his 85th birthday he came to the restaurant and told Dorothy he would jump again when he was 90. (Photo by Joanne Rathe/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
KENNEBUNKPORT, ME - JUNE 12: A spectator looks skyward at the approaching helicopter carrying former U.S. President George H.W. Bush at St. Anne's Episcopal Church on June 12, 2014 in Kennebunkport, Maine. The President is celebrating his 90th birthday today by skydiving with US Army Sergeant 1st Class (ret), Mike Elliott. (Photo by Eric Shea/Getty Images)
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, 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)
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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, fulfilling a goal he made five years ago after a similar jump even though he can no longer use his legs.

The nation's 41st president jumped from a helicopter at about 6,000 feet while harnessed to retired Sgt. 1st Class Mike Elliott, a former member of the Golden Knights, the Army's parachute team, who guided Bush to a safe landing on his 85th birthday.

"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."

The helicopter picked up Bush outside his home in Kennebunkport, in coastal Maine. His family sang "Happy Birthday" to him as he was transported him from his wheelchair to the chopper.

Bush floated to the ground under a red, white and blue parachute and landed on the lawn of St. Ann's Episcopal Church, where several hundred friends and relatives had gathered. 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 hewas 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."

Bush was greeted with a kiss from his wife, Barbara Bush, and a hug from his son former President George W. Bush. The family left without talking to reporters.
George H.W. Bush Celebrates 90th Birthday With Skydive In Maine

Outside the grounds, scores of people gathered on the rocky shore 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.

Said Carol Schierl, 75, of Green Bay, Wisconsin: "I think it's wonderful. I hope I can jump out of a plane at 90."

The jump was kept secret until Thursday morning partly to give Bush the option of bagging it because of less-than-ideal weather.

"It's vintage George Bush," spokesman Jim 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."

Bush had to overcome the objections of his doctor and his family before making the jump, Elliott said.

"He's smiling like a kid in kindergarten," Elliott said following the jump.

Bush's jump was indicative of a trend among people of advanced age, said Lenard Kaye, director of the Maine Center on Aging at the University of Maine. More seniors are participating in extreme physical activities deep into their golden years, a trend that will pick up steam as more baby boomers retire, he said.

Such "extreme acts of adventure" are becoming a part of many seniors' lives, but they need to be mindful that their bones are more fragile than when they were younger, he said.

Bush, during his years in the White House, was known for jogging, tennis and fast-paced golf. The former president, who signed the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990, now uses a wheelchair or scooter because of a form of parkinsonism that has robbed him of use of his legs.

The first time Bush jumped from an airplane was when his plane was shot down in World War II over the Pacific. He marked his 75th, 80th and 85th birthdays by skydiving. Thursday was his eighth jump.
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Former President Bush Celebrates 80th Birthday With JumpPresident George H.W. Bush comes in for a landing while parachuting over Kennebunkport on Friday, J

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 and political director Ron Kaufman, 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."

President George H.W. Bush Skydives For His 90th Birthday

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Associated Press writer Patrick Whittle in Portland contributed to this report.

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