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Flying at 100 Wasn’t Enough, Let’s Do It Again at 104

Southwest Airlines gets a lot of passengers. In fact, as a domestic airline for most of its business, the company sees a lot of frequent travelers and families on vacation. However, it’s not that common for an airline to be host to a passenger flying over the age of 100. That was the case when Jane Smith decided to make a trip from San Francisco to the south of Nevada, Las Vegas, for her centennial birthday in 2018.

On that trip, Jane Smith became very social with the crew, and they even decided to make the day a bit special for her, singing with a chorus a Stevie Wonder song, “Isn’t She Lovely,” as Ms. Smith arrived at the gate and again when she arrived in Vegas. The trip gave Smith a chance to connect with some of the Southwest employees involved, who in turn stayed connected with her and Smith’s family after the big trip. Then, for at least two years, Jane Smith couldn’t travel. COVID had arrived, and given her age, Smith was isolated from any trips.

However, when 2022 arrived, it was time for Jane Smith to travel again, and that’s exactly what she did. At the healthy, robust age of 104, Smith decided she was going to go to Vegas again, chalking up another birthday in the city in the desert, getting there on a Southwest flight all over again.

Knowing that Smith was going to make another trip out of San Francisco again, and this time at the age of 104, the Southwest team wanted to make it even more memorable than the 100 year trip. After all, realistically speaking, it becomes a bit harder to guarantee one will show up annually for the next one.

Unfortunately, Jane Smith became sick on March 24, 48 hours before she was going to fly to Vegas again. At her age, that could be a serious event, so it was pretty much cancelled. The Southwest folks, however, weren’t going to let a cancelled trip stop them from celebrating Jane Smith’s birthday. Instead, they brought the part to her front door. Southwest employees worked together to provide a cake, flowers and a big Southwest visit just for Jane Smith herself. They showed up at her San Francisco home to wish Smith well and welcome in her 104th year of living. A number of the staff were quite moved by the event, and it was a classic example of the Southwest Airlines family philosophy.

Dubbed “Mama Jane,” Smith got to enjoy her special day, courtesy of Southwest, albeit just not in the air. And she has a lot to be proud of. Smith has seen her family grow to 14 grandchildren as well as 32 great-grandkids after that. She has even seen the birth of her first great-great-grandchild, something few can claim in their lifetime.

Smith has had a lucky life too. Her husband, Irving Russel Smith, was able to live with her until he reached age 96, passing away in 2013. They almost made it to 75 years of marriage. However, even with the loss of her loved partner, Smith has been surrounded by family in her later years and still is. And she definitely considers the Southwest team part of her extended circle as well.

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106-Year-Old Texan Sets Record as World’s Oldest Skydiver

Renee Yates

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At 106 years old, Alfred “Al” Blaschke from Georgetown, Texas, has reclaimed the title of the world’s oldest skydiver. This remarkable feat was achieved when he jumped out of an airplane at 9,000 feet last November. Blaschke, who initially set the record at 103, continues to prove that age is just a number.

Blaschke’s latest skydive was not just for thrill; it was a powerful message about overcoming doubts. “If you think you can’t, you’re just underestimating yourself,” he said, encouraging people to step beyond their comfort zones.

This achievement was covered by the Guinness World Records, which tracks over 40,000 world records. Blaschke’s record had been briefly surpassed by Dorothy Hoffner of Chicago, who made her skydive at 104. Unfortunately, Hoffner passed away before her record could be officially recognized.

On November 27, 2023, Blaschke embarked on his third tandem skydive. He and his instructor leaped from 9,000 feet above Fentress, Texas, and parachuted safely to the ground, greeted by his family, journalists, and officials.

Blaschke’s journey into skydiving began at the age of 100, and he broke his first record at 103 to celebrate his twin grandsons’ college graduation. He was inspired to take up skydiving not just for fun but to mark significant life events in a truly memorable way.

The record was previously held by Rut Linnéa Ingegärd Larsson of Sweden, who skydived at 103 years and 259 days old in 2022. Motivated by Larsson’s feat, Blaschke was determined to reclaim his title.

Now 107, Blaschke has lived a full life, from his early years in a farming family in Janesville, Wisconsin, to a 40-year career in the tool-and-die industry where he built aircraft parts during World War II. He moved to Texas in 2004 with his wife, Eleanor, who passed away in 2010.

Skydiving for Blaschke is more than just a sport; it’s a way to celebrate milestones and make every moment count. As he put it, each dive has to be for “something extra special.”

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Twin Hero Receives Royal Award for Bravery

Kevin Wells

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Three years ago, an ordinary vacation in Mexico turned into a scene from a movie when a crocodile attacked two sisters while swimming in a river. Georgia and Melissa, twins who were enjoying their time in the water, suddenly found themselves in a terrifying situation. Georgia reached safety, but as Melissa was being helped onto the bank, the crocodile struck again, pulling her underwater.

In a brave and daring move, Georgia, who is now 31 years old, didn’t hesitate. She jumped back into the water, not once but twice, to fight off the massive reptile and save her sister. This incredible act of courage has earned Georgia the King’s Gallantry Medal, a prestigious award given by King Charles III. This medal is a tribute to civilians who risk their own lives to save others.

Georgia shared with the UK’s PA Media news agency that receiving this award brings a “silver lining” to their horrifying experience. She said it somewhat eases the trauma they went through.

Melissa’s ordeal was severe. She suffered from multiple injuries including a complicated wrist fracture, deep puncture wounds to her stomach, and bites on her leg, foot, and glutes. She had to undergo emergency surgery and was even placed in a medically induced coma to fight off a life-threatening infection known as sepsis. Thankfully, she fully recovered after a tough battle in the hospital.

Now, with the nightmare behind them, Georgia and Melissa are channeling their experience into something positive. They are planning to swim 13 kilometers in the Thames Marathon this August. Their goal is to raise money for PTSD UK and Compañeros En Salud, a charity in Mexico that helps provide medical training and aid to communities in need.

Reflecting on the incident, Georgia admits that it sometimes feels like a distant, unreal memory. “It sounds like something out of a horror movie,” she says. But for them, it’s a part of their life story, a dramatic chapter in their personal tapestry.

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A Lifesaving Donation: 91-Year-Old Contributes $500,000 to Rural Missouri Fire Department

Jess

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In Calhoun, Missouri, a heartfelt gesture from a 91-year-old resident has brought new life to the local volunteer fire department. Sam Sloan, a long-time community supporter, has donated a staggering $500,000 to the Calhoun Volunteer Fire Department, a gift that will transform the small but dedicated team of firefighters.

When Chief Hardin first took over the department, it was a struggle to keep things running. “It needed a lot of work,” he said. The department had only one functioning fire truck, and most of the equipment was outdated, dating back to the 1980s. Despite these challenges, Hardin saw potential and opened the doors wide to the community for support. Through Facebook posts and frequent training sessions, he expanded the team from a one-man operation to 28 devoted volunteers.

Today, the department prides itself on being “very active and very aggressive,” not standing back but diving into the challenges of firefighting head-on. The department has made significant repairs to the old trucks and takes great pride in their work, embodying a sense of community and resilience.

Sam Sloan, who has been a pillar of the Henry County community since 1960, decided it was time to make a significant contribution. “I’ve been planning to for several years,” Sloan said about his donation. “It’s half a million dollars and a half a million dollars is a pretty good donation.”

The department plans to use Sloan’s generous donation to purchase three new fire trucks and update all the necessary equipment and gear for the volunteers. “The first thing that we’re going to replace is our tanker pumper,” Hardin explained. This vital piece of equipment had been patched up multiple times over the past year and was desperately in need of replacement.

This donation comes at a crucial time, as just before the donation, the department had only $169 left in their bank account. Now, with Sloan’s contribution, every firefighter will soon be fitted with brand new, state-of-the-art gear. “Every one of our firefighters, from head to toe, we’re going to be fitted next Monday for new gear,” Hardin announced.

While Sloan humbly downplays his role, saying he knows more about making money than fixing fire trucks, his impact on the community is undeniable. “We’re going to help our neighbors. We’re going to pass that along,” Hardin affirmed, grateful for the donation.

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Teen Math Whizzes Solve Ancient Problem

Shannon Jackson

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In a remarkable display of intellectual prowess, two high school seniors, Ne’Kiya Jackson and Calcea Johnson, have achieved what many thought was impossible: they’ve provided a new trigonometry-based proof of the Pythagorean Theorem, solving a mathematical challenge that has puzzled scholars for two millennia.

Studying at St. Mary’s Academy, an all-girls Catholic school in New Orleans, these bright students have been encouraged to reach for the stars. The school, founded just after the Civil War by an African American nun, aims to empower young Black women with the belief that anything is possible. According to junior Christina Blazio, “That is kind of a standard here. So we aim very high – like, our aim is excellence for all students.”

In December 2022, a school-wide math contest promising a $500 prize challenged students to come up with a new proof for the Pythagorean Theorem—a fundamental principle in geometry that states that in a right triangle, the square of the length of the hypotenuse (the side opposite the right angle) is equal to the sum of the squares of the lengths of the other two sides.

Despite the daunting task and knowing full well that math was not easy, Ne’Kiya and Calcea dove into the challenge. What they didn’t know was that their quest involved solving a problem using trigonometry, something that was considered impossible since no known proofs using this branch of mathematics had succeeded in 2,000 years.

After two months of dedicated effort, the seniors developed a proof they titled “The Waffle Cone.” Calcea explains, “We start with a regular right triangle, and then we draw a second congruent triangle. We continue creating similar but smaller right triangles in a pattern that eventually forms a larger waffle cone shape.”

Their achievement is not just a personal victory but a monumental contribution to the field of mathematics, placing them alongside a very exclusive list of intellectuals who have managed to provide a documented proof using trigonometry. Before them, the last such achievement was in 2009 by mathematician Jason Zimba.

The news of their success spread quickly around the globe, earning them accolades from numerous dignitaries, including a shout-out from former First Lady Michelle Obama and keys to the city of New Orleans.

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Quick-Acting Barbers Save Toddler from Busy Street

Kevin Wells

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Two barbers from East Hartford are being hailed as heroes after they sprinted into action to prevent a little girl from running into traffic. Osvaldo Lugo, the owner of Look Sharp Barbershop, and his employee, Rafael Santana, noticed the child when she dashed past their shop.

The incident, caught on the shop’s surveillance camera, shows the barbers interrupting their work to chase after the girl who was heading towards a busy intersection. Lugo, a father of three, managed to catch her just in time at a crosswalk. He recalls his urgent thoughts during the chase, focusing solely on reaching the girl safely.

After rescuing her, Lugo found the toddler’s mother nearby at a bus stop, visibly confused and shocked but also thankful. Santana, who is also a father and expecting another child, emphasized the importance of vigilance, especially with children.

Following their heroic act, the city’s mayor awarded Santana and Lugo with certificates recognizing their bravery. The local police also praised the duo for their quick response, which prevented a potential disaster. Despite the accolades, Santana humbly attributes their success to simply being attentive dads with fortunate timing.

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