Mary Jo Bellner Swartzberg
“I could be handy, mending a fuse
When your lights have gone
You can knit a sweater by the fireside
Sunday mornings go for a ride
Doing the garden, digging the weeds
Who could ask for more
Will you still need me, will you still feed me
When I’m sixty-four?”
—When I’m 64! Recorded by the Beatles in 1966.
For those of you who have not yet realized the age of 85, how would you expect to celebrate the momentous occasion when that day arrives? Would you enjoy a nice dinner at a distinctive restaurant? Enjoy ice cream and cake with family? Or, just relax with a few friends over a bottle of select wine and imported cheeses? All nice past times, to be sure. But if you are Lew Chatham, who turned age 85 on Oct. 26, you (naturally) would:
Day one: Go skydiving with his children at the Phoenix Skydive Center in Casa Grande, followed by a lovely dinner and, then, followed by Ann’s family famous carrot cake!
Day two: Go ziplining at Arizona Zipline Adventures in Oracle, with his family, including his grandchildren; head to TopGolf in Tucson to hit golf balls, then have dinner with his children and grandchildren.
Day three: Family departures and recovery!
Of course, Lew is no ordinary person. He skydived on two previous occasions – when he was age 77 and then again at age 78. Lew retired (after 31 years) as a Rear Admiral with the U.S. Navy. He flew with The Blue Angels and, during the Vietnam War, Lew flew 366 combat missions (sorties), collectively, in the years 1964, 1965, 1966 (from the U.S.S. Hancock) and in 1971, 1972 and 1973. (from the U.S.S. Midway). Lew had 1,100 “arrested landings” – 300 at night. “Arrested landings” are when a jet lands on the flight deck of a carrier and the jet is “snagged” by a tail hook. It is one of the most difficult maneuvers a Navy pilot can do.
Lew has been married to his wife, Ann, for 45 years. They have four children: Sean (a high-end chef in Oregon), Greg (who serves in the Special Forces as a Green Beret in California with his wife), Melissa (who is a stay at home mother, who does free-lance writing, living with her husband in Atlanta) and Geoff (who works in real estate in Denver, with his wife). They have five grandchildren!
When asked what he envisions doing on his 90th birthday Lew said that he would “jump again” and, as well, spend precious time with his children and grandchildren.
Lew Chatham – an extraordinary man who is living an extraordinary life!
For the record – Beatle Sir James Paul McCartney is 77 and Beatle Ringo Starr is 79! How time flies!