Stuart Johnson, Deseret Morning News
Kathleen McKell believes that sky diving in Australia isn't as scary as driving at Point of the Mountain in a snowstorm.

SPRINGVILLE — Moments before she dropped out of a plane 10,000 feet above Whitsunday, Australia, 81-year-old Kathleen McKell didn't show any sign of fear.

Nope, not even a tinge registered on the Springville resident's face. In fact, as she plummeted toward the distant rain forest landscape below, with her tandem partner in tow, McKell's mouth peeled back into an expression of elation.

You see, as far as this 81-year-young lady is concerned, she's been in circumstances far more terrifying than her Feb. 22 sky-diving adventure.

"I've been much more frightened driving around Point of the Mountain in a snowstorm," McKell said Thursday in the living room of her Victorian-style house on 200 East in Springville.

After a good joke, McKell's giggle grows into a bout of irrepressible laughter.

No, McKell isn't an octogenarian adrenaline junkie. She's a self-described ordinary person who just likes to have fun.

"You want it to be a worthwhile life," she said. "And I'm fortunate to have that."

McKell has flown to Australia 12 times over the past 15 years to visit her son, daughter-in-law and grandchildren. That's the main reason for her globe-trotting, not thrill seeking. That just comes as a bonus.

In recent years, McKell has gone motorcycling around Melbourne, Australia, and camel riding in the desert.

"It's exactly like you see in the movies," she said moving her arm in a fluid motion to punctate her point. "Up and down, up and down."

Then last year it was scuba diving off the Great Barrier Reef. Though she'd never done it before, McKell plunged right in — after a 15-minute orientation, mind you — clinging to the collar of a certified scuba diver from the Netherlands named Matt.

With regard to McKell's latest high adventure, sky diving was a birthday gift from her grandson, Robbie. Wait, what kind of a family would ...

"I know what you're thinking," McKell quickly chimes in. "'Do they want to get rid of her?"'

She giggles.

No, such is not the case. Her family is well aware of her lust for life. In fact, McKell suspects it's a trait inherited from her mother's side.

Robbie accompanied his grandmother on her sky-diving excursion, and he took the plunge first. Then McKell was up. Not once did she consider backing out.

"The good thing was there wasn't much time to think," she said.

She giggles.

Of course, nobody warned her about the pressure. As she and her tandem partner, whose first name was Cross, plunged through air, McKell felt like the wind was about to scalp her.

Then Cross opened the chute and McKell was floating through air, beholding the Australian landscape. All the while, Cross videotaped the dive for McKell to have as a keepsake.

"I'm flying!" she exclaimed in the video.

McKell concedes there are people who think an 81-year-old woman shouldn't be jumping out of planes. But in her mind, anyone can do anything regardless of age — within reason, she emphasized.

"I think it's nice to surprise ourselves," she said.

Now that she's back in Springville, McKell doesn't plan on slowing down anytime soon. She thinks she'd like to try river rafting next. She hopes others will try to have a worthwhile life.

"If you have an opportunity, for goodness sake, take it," she said. "Do fun things every chance you get. And if you know of something, call me."

She giggles. Again.


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