Monday, Feb. 5, 2001 | 9:12 a.m.
Not many women would celebrate their 82nd birthday by jumping out of an airplane. Then again, not many thrill-seeking grandmas are as remarkable as longtime Las Vegan Kay Garske.
She walks two miles every morning, weightlifts three times a week, plays golf practically every day and once was a passenger in a race car that topped 155 mph.
"I've never been one to just sit around. I figure if the good Lord wants to take me, he'll do it whether I'm sleeping in bed or jumping out of a plane," said Garske, who made her first parachute jump Saturday, six days after her 82nd birthday, after her initial attempt was postponed by bad weather.
A widow for 18 years -- her late husband Joe invented the Par Aide Products golf ball washer -- Garske believes a senior citizen should live as full a life as possible. She dates once in a while, but said she is luckier falling out of a plane than falling in love.
"The young men want my purse, the old men want a nurse, and everyone in between is either married or gay," said the Minnesota native, who moved to Las Vegas in 1969.
The jump was a birthday gift from her daughters Sue Garske and Judy Weber and Sue's friend Roxanne Glass. Her son, Steven Garske, was in Europe on business and missed it. Garske, a grandmother of three, wanted to make the leap, because she had heard it was exhilarating and because so many people said she was crazy for even considering it at her age.
After receiving instructions and viewing a film at Skydive Las Vegas, Garske made the jump in a special harness with chief jump master Simon Wade attached to her back.
"I wasn't pushed and I didn't jump -- I sort of fell out of the plane," Garske said, noting that her mouth was dry like sandpaper. "We were up 15,000 feet and fell for about one minute before Simon pulled the rip cord. The whole jump took 15 to 20 minutes."
Garske said the experience was "wonderful" but not something she could easily put into words.
"You just have to do it and see for yourself. When the chute opened, we were jerked really hard, and then it felt like we weren't moving at all. I had to ask Simon if we were still falling. He assured me everything was fine."
Instead of tucking her knees and letting Wade's feet touch first, Garske's feet touched down and the two tumbled to the ground.
"After the jump, I told a friend it wasn't all that exciting," said Garske, the oldest woman to take a Skydive Las Vegas jump, the Boulder City Airport business confirmed. "My friend said, 'Not that exciting? What are you going to do next, get shot out of a cannon?'
"Now that's an idea," Garske beamed.