North Huntingdon sky diving gold medalist champions sport for family, others
Some might say Randy Persi is fearless for making parachuting his passion and hobby. Others might consider him a little crazy for tempting fate almost 2,000 times by diving out of planes.
But, all of them can call the North Huntingdon man a champion, as the 51-year-old father of two daughters is part of a gold-medal-winning sky diving team.
The Dawgfathers sky diving team won the four-way sequential canopy formation event in October at the U.S. Parachute Association National Parachuting Championships in Sebastian, Fla. It’s what Persi calls the Super Bowl of U.S. parachuting competition.
In canopy formation, teams of four sky divers jump from 9,000 feet, build as many formations as possible in two minutes, while holding onto each other’s canopies. A fifth team member records the descent on video, which judges examine and score.
The Dawgfathers had done only 35 practice jumps as a team before the national competition, Persi said.
Persi, a native of western Beaver County, began sky diving while a 25-year-old student at California University of Pennsylvania. He did it on somewhat of a lark, telling his father only at the last minute he would be jumping with the Beaver Valley sky diving club that June day in 1993.
His father, a member of the Army’s famed 82nd Airborne during World War II, was not so impressed, Persi remembered. It was then that he learned his father had been a glider pilot and flew troops into Normandy during the D-Day invasion.
“I was petrified the first time,” Persi recalled.
His reaction after that first jump? “I was hooked. The more you do it, the less fearful you become because you trust your ability and your gear,” Persi said.
And the more he jumped, he realized “(sky divers) are not a bunch of lunatics.”
Gear has gotten “safer and safer” over the decades, Persi said.
Still, he has had “a few breaks” — like breaking a leg and suffering a compound fracture.
Persi has passed along his love of the sport to the next generation of his family. He took his daughter Miranda sky diving at Grove City for her 18th birthday.
“She loved it. She grew up watching me do it,” Persi said.
Rather than fearing it, Persi, a project manager for Curtiss-Wright Corp. in Cheswick, said he finds sky diving therapeutic.
“You’re not thinking of your bills” floating along a few thousand feet above the ground, Persi said.
For anyone wanting to follow Persi’s path in sky diving, he does offer a word of caution.
“People get killed when they push the envelope,” he said. “It’s a very safety-conscious sport.”
Joe Napsha is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe at 724-836-5252 or firstname.lastname@example.org.