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Skydive wish comes true for Punta Gorda patient

By Lisa Brosky


PUNTA GORDA, FL - It wasn’t the first time George Downing traveled from the sky to the ground in an unconventional manner, but it was the first time this former Army helicopter pilot did it on purpose.


The first two times, as a combat pilot in Vietnam, his helicopter was shot down and George was forced to traverse jungle and rice fields to get back to his unit. This time, as George put it, he wanted to jump from “a perfectly good airplane” and even better, without facing enemy fire.


After George, of Punta Gorda, entered the care of Tidewell Hospice, he and his wife, Sandra, decided to check off some bucket list items. George, however, had a wish of his own: to go skydiving.


His nurse and social worker immediately went to work, connecting him with Tidewell Foundation to make it happen. The Tidewell Wishes Fund covered the tandem skydive with a trainer from the Southwest Florida Skydive Club.


On March 22, George and his friend, Bill, jumped from 13,000 feet on a beautiful sunny day.


It started with a free fall at 120 mph. The full skydive took seven minutes. His welcome to the ground was a bit more friendly this time, as family and friends cheered him on.


He described the experience “as a rush” and "pretty damn cool," and referred to Tidewell colleagues as “its Angels.”

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