ShareThis Page
News

Retired Richland physician celebrates 90th birthday by skydiving for 1st time

| Wednesday, July 22, 2015, 7:42 p.m.

Dr. Bill Wharton of Richland, a retired emergency room physician, celebrated his 90th birthday by sky-diving over Minnesota.

“I think it's ironic that I jumped 14,000 feet and the first thing I asked for, upon landing, was my cane,” said the intrepid Wharton, a World War II veteran and resident of St. Barnabas Retirement Village.

Wharton joked about his sudden celebrity at the retirement community after dropping through the clouds while harnessed to a seasoned sky-diving instructor.

“I don't know about all this fuss for falling out of an airplane,” he said.

Wharton, who turned 90 on June 24, sky-dived with three family members on July 7 as part of an adventure booked through Sky Dive the Lakes, based in Winsted, Minn.

“There was no apprehension during the dive. The jumpmaster was so calm and re-assuring.” Wharton said.

“We rolled out of the plane at 14,000 feet, and did a free fall for a full minute, which put us close to 6,000 feet when we popped the chute,” Wharton said. “I saw the skyline of Minneapolis. ... It was a picture-perfect day.

“They told me to raise my legs on landing, and the jumpmaster took the impact,” he said. “It was really a ‘walk-in' landing, very soft. ... I would do it again.”

Wharton took the 120-mph plunge during a family trip to visit son, Bob, and daughter-in-law, Kathy Wharton of Maple Grove, Minn.

Joining Wharton for the six-minute fall were Kathy and grandchildren, William and Emily Wharton.

“They gave us a little lecture before hand, about 45 minutes,” Wharton said. “The hardest part of the whole thing was getting into the plane. I had trouble getting up the steps.”

Waiting on the ground were daughter, Kathy Patrignani, and son-in-law, Vince Patrignani, of Richland, and granddaughters, Victoria and Camille Patrignani.

“The whole experience was very pleasant,” Bill Wharton said.

Kathy Patrignani said her father first mentioned his sky diving wish earlier this year.

“He said, ‘If I live to be 90, I'm going to jump out of an airplane,'” she said.

Wharton said his days as a young Army soldier first inspired his desire to fly through the sky.

“I trained at Fort Benning (Georgia) and the paratroopers' school is there,” said Wharton, who served on the island of Okinawa during World War II.

A graduate of Lycoming College and Temple University School of Medicine, Wharton grew up in Williamsport, Lycoming County.

Before he moved to Richland, Wharton spent most of his life in Erie with his late wife, Joyce, who died in 1997.

In 1996, Wharton retired from the medical department of the locomotive division of the General Electric Company after working 22 years in the emergency department of the former St. Vincent Health Center in Erie.

Deborah Deasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6369 or ddeasy@tribweb.com.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me