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DZO, founder, owner/proprietor of Sunshine Factory (gear and pro shop)
How many years in the sport?
When you were a kid, were there any early activities that might indicate you’d one day become a skydiver?
No not when I was a kid. But in my early 20s I discovered an uncontrollable urge to jump off high buildings or anything high. At the time, I knew nothing about skydiving and base jumping had not been discovered. Some people feel very uncomfortable, for example, on the roof of a high building. For me, I can go right up to the edge and it takes conscious thought for me not to jump. When I was in University, my dorm room was rather high and I used to open the window and sit on the edge and dream of jumping off. This was before I started skydiving. I still feel like this.
What was the circumstance that led you to the DZ for the first time to make your very first skydive?
I was in University at a Frat Party and a group were going and asked me along ; and I was like sure, why not?
What made you want to continue skydiving after your first jump?
When I got to the DZ, Roanoke Rapids , North Carolina, they said OK, it’s $30 for one jump or $65 to get off static line. I think to myself …. well, $65 is a much better deal, so I signed up for the $65 program. I made that first jump and the DZ owner said, OK, are you ready to make another? I remember thinking to myself, OK, I did this, I’m alive, do I really want to do this again? I hesitated, thought about it and the rest is history. YES, I made that 2nd one right away and I was hooked.
What’s the best / most memorable skydive you’ve ever made?
There are many, but if I have to choose just one, I would say when we made the first 60 way ever at Zhills in 1978. It was not invitational, not really planned, there was a bunch of us that had been skydiving together and we had the aircraft and it was like – HEY, let’s see if we can do this. The fun, joy and camaraderie carried us long into the evening together!
If you could jump with anyone in the world, who would you like to jump with and why?
well – you didn’t say they need to be a skydiver or alive or dead. One of the people that I admire the most in history is FDR.
When I was a skydiver I feel I had the opportunity to jump with all my heroes, isn’t that nice to be able to say!
What about your daily work at Skydive City contributes to FUN at Skydive City?
Well … some people say I AM “Zhills Style” – I don’t know if I am or not. I bring in entertainment to the DZ/Birdhouse. I’ve brought in Bands, Casino, Individual Artists, Karaoke, Magician – to name a few. And I also do all of the decorating for special events. I put up a Disco Ball and many disco type moving lights in the Birdhouse to turn it into a music party venue. Along with that on special nights, I put table cloths on the tables along with color changing candles to transform the room. I’ve perpetuated the Flamingo Theme and Alligators around the DZ. I’ve also designed our new Jerseys along with the new staff Jersey. During ZCarnivale I hosted the mask painting parties and many other events.
I also, because of my love of history, have worked to preserve the history of skydiving at Zhills. I have made the Birdhouse into a mini museum displaying many historical items and photos. I have also added historical memorabilia to the bar tables and covered them with bar top epoxy. These tables include articles from the World Meet that was held here in 1981 and the Wingsuit and Canopy Piloting World Meets held in recent years. I also have a money table that includes coins from every one of the 80 Countries that we tracked visiting us in one year. I have done a patch table also that includes patches from the early 1960s. Did you know that when the World Meet was held here in 1981, the post office cancelled all postage that came into the post office, with the World Meet Logo?
And as the owner of Sunshine Factory I think I provide a great service to Zhills with a full service Pro Shop. A walk in shop at a DZ is a rarity, not the norm. I have owned Sunshine Factory since 1984.
What is most gratifying about your work at Skydive City?
I like seeing people happy, smiling, making GREAT skydives and feeling “ZHILLS Style”. If they leave loving Zhills as I do, then I am gratified.