This is not the first big adventure for Sharon Dean, and it sounds like it won’t be her last.
The 81-year-old Tooele resident took to the skies with Skydive Utah at Tooele Valley Airport in Erda on Aug. 29, 2018.
The list of Dean’s previous adventures include scuba diving, skiing, hiking, learning three kinds of karate, and working a ham radio for the Iditarod dog race in Alaska.
The skydiving was a birthday present to herself, she said.
But her daughter advised against it.
“Well, I saved up my money and I took myself,” Dean said. “Well, it was tandem diving, not by myself.”
Out of all of her adventures, skydiving is at the top of Dean’s list.
“It was the best thing I have ever done before,” she said. “I like to pick out different things that give me a challenge.”
Dean speaks humbly about her adventures over the years.
“I have done martial arts for about 20 years, scuba diving for a number of years,” Dean said. “I used to be an avid skier and hiking was good. Now I like to do things that, if you do them right, then you won’t get hurt.”
Dean was born in Marquette, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, and went to high school there. Then she moved south to attend Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti.
After school, Dean moved to California with some friends and started scuba diving.
“I don’t know why I love it, but I do,” she said. “I have no problem jumping in the water.”
Dean met some friends who went scuba diving and asked more about it.
“We would go out to Santa Catalina Island, off the coast of Los Angeles, about 10 miles out, and dive,” she said. “You could see angel sharks, spider crabs 2 feet across, electric eels and manta rays. It was amazing.”
But the funny part is that she got seasick.
“That part was terrible,” she said.
Scuba diving is when Dean decided to become more physically fit.
“I started doing these exercises to keep myself in shape in order to carry the tanks on our backs,” she said.
One time, her scuba diving group, the Blue Fins, went down to Mexico.
“There was a whole beach full of seagull eggs and people would go out and get them to eat,” Dean said.
Did she try seagull eggs?
“No,” she said, laughing.
Also while in California, she got interested in martial arts. She took that interest to her next adventure — Alaska.
“Yep, it was cold up there,” she said. Nevertheless, she lived there for 30 years.
Dean was also serious about taking care of her safety, and that of her daughter. She eventually learned three different kinds of karate: Shotokan, Jiu Jitsu and Seibukan. The training and experience gave her confidence.
“I am not afraid to protect myself. And I am not as afraid as I used to be before martial arts,” she said. “I would recommend training to everyone.”
Dean raised her daughter in Alaska, worked for the Bureau of Land Management and got involved with ham radio. In fact, her next adventure involved ham radio.
“I was asked to be part of the tracking team for the Iditarod Race,” she said. “I would be in charge of a station, get there and set up the antennas and get the radio ready.”
During the race, Dean would report back to headquarters how many dogs a team had and if the team needed anything as it passed the station.
“It was a lot of flying around,” she said. “I have been from Anchorage to Nome. I was involved with the race for nine years.”
And then there was yet another adventure.
“There was a man in our office who was a pilot and I started taking ground lessons with him,” Dean said. “But then he got transferred so that was the end of that.”
In 2002, Dean moved back to Utah to be nearer to her daughter, her seven grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
Now Dean focuses on strength training and stretching.
“Really stretching and lifting five-point weights — you can use your imagination and choose an exercise of stretch that you feel you need,” she said.
Dean credits her interest in adventure to her ongoing desire to learn.
“I have met people who have learned or tried things and then I wanted to try it,” she said. “If you want something bad enough, you will come up with the money for it.”
But when Dean told her family she wanted to try skydiving, her daughter tried to talk her out of it.
“I said, ‘I will think of you when I am up there!’” Dean said.
Dean says the plane ride up to the drop zone was great.
“I had a lot of experience with planes in Alaska,” she said. “When the door opened and the fresh air came in, it felt just great. I thought, ‘Ah, just step off’ and I did.”
Dean said she and her tandem partner were in free fall for 60 seconds.
“It was cool, it felt great and I loved it,” she said. “If you are younger, you should try it. Myself, I am a little late, but I plan to go again next year for my birthday.”