Former teacher Mike Pont is celebrating his 80th birthday with a ‘Geriatrics Jump’ off the South Downs.
Mike, who taught at Oakmeeds School in Burgess Hill from 1959-1969, is joining pal Paul Spence, 67, to make a paragliding leap later this month - despite having a fear of heights, two replacement knees and a replacement hip.
“I’ve always been terrified of heights,” said Mike, who lives at Little Horsted, Uckfield, “I can just about get up a step ladder. But I thought when you are 80 you’ve just got to get over it.”
He and Paul will be making the leap off Bo Peep Hill or Firle Beacon on August 24 for two good causes: Mike is raising cash for Raystede Animal Centre and Paul is raising money for the neo-natal unit of St George’s Hospital in Tooting.
Mike helped found Burgess Hill Rugby Club with teaching colleague Geoff Curtis and still has connections with the club. He also played for Ditchling Rugby Club from its inception in 1966, and Ditchling Cricket Club, until enforced retirement. He blames his sporting prowess for damaging his knees and hips over the years.
Originally Mike planned to do a charity wing walk - but was told he was too old. He mentioned his disappointment over a drink with pal Paul in the Laughing Fish at Isfield.
“Paul said to me ‘why don’t you come with me and do a geriatric jump’?”
Mike will be making the leap - being yanked into the air by a parachute - dressed as a Spitfire pilot in a tribute to a war-time pilot he witnessed being killed after bailing out of his aircraft at Dallington, near Heathfield.