Women in sports * Corinne Leslie * Parachute
90-Year-Old Arizona Woman Becomes
Parachuting World Record-Holder
by Jim Bates
(This article was prepared from material published on November 24, 1992 in the Journal Inquirer, a Connecticut newspaper, as provided by the Maturity New Service and Joe Voz, writer.)
Corinne Leslie, originally from South Bend, Indiana, has long been a resident of the well known and sprawling retirement community of Sun City, Arizona, not far from Phoenix. Twenty years age she moved to Sun City with the intention of retiring from the rigors of professional dancing as a ballerina. She had danced at places all about the world, including the famed Radio City Music Hall in New York City. But the retirement community of active oldsters didn’t take long to discover her background and she soon became involved again with dancing.
Her late husband was also a professional dancer and the two of them – as a fun thing to do – organized what was merely to be apart-time cheerleading squad to act as “boosters” for a local women’s softball team. The team was named the “Sun Cities Poms.” Those cheerleaders definitely were not kids – the team membership grew to 18 women who, for the most part, were in their 70s and 80s, but they certainly were not”porch sitters and chair rockers.”
The cheerleading unit quickly became busy performing acrobatic dance routines, then busier, and then busier still. As well as appearances at many events, locally and nationally (in addition to the women’s softball team games), events such as parades and festivals, the Poms also became a regular feature of the Fiesta Bowl Parade in Tempe.
After years of working with the Poms, Corinne Leslie retired from the group, saying the increasing scope of activity and demands on her time were becoming too great to suit her retirement aims. “I play golf twice a week and play pool and I have my church work,” Joe Voz reported her saying in his Maturity News Service article. “I came to Sun City to retire 20 years ago, but I was working harder than ever with the Poms, rehearsing, working on new music.”
Writer Voz noted that people asked her an obvious question: “Why in the world would a 90-year-old have any desire to jump out of an airplane?” She had an explanation: “The Poms always march in the Fiesta Bowl Parade. Each year I would see skydivers land before the parade and I thought it would be so much fun. I figured I was 90 and I’d better do it. I just made up my mind. I had decided I either wanted to take a hot air balloon ride or go skydiving. I decided the balloon was a little too tame for me.”
She also had encouragement from her 52-year-old daughter, who had made her own first jump a few weeks earlier and highly recommended the experience.
Writer Voz described 90-year-old Corinne Leslie’s first parachute jump:
“The tiny plane climbed up over the vast brown Arizona desert, wind rushing in through an open side door. “
Two miles up, Bill Will put on his goggles and helmet, turned to the slender 120-pound woman sitting next to him, and yelled, ‘OK, let’s go.’
“She grabbed her goggles and helmet and joined him at the door.
“She and her instructor, Will – in a tandem rig – plummeted in a freefall for 40 seconds, hitting 120 mph before the chute opened. “‘I let out a yell,’ Leslie recalled. ‘My mouth was wide open and the wind rushing in dried it out.’ She added, ‘Once the parachute opened up, that was nice. The landing was beautiful.’
“Later, Leslie discovered she had jumped with a cracked elbow. ‘I guess the adrenaline was so high I didn’t feel a thing until later. I was so revved up.’
“Before takeoff, she had posed at the top of a human pyramid with members of an acrobatic dance group she founded, the Sun Cities Poms, and had fallen a few feet onto the concrete.”
Mrs. Leslie was enthralled with her parachuting experience. Though she professed to wanting to “spend a little more time perfecting her pool game,” she’s also thinking about making another skydive, most likely doing so when she can plan it with an 85-year-old woman who has also jumped before, with each of them again making tandem jumps and celebrating together afterward.
Writer Voz said: “She may even form a new group – the Sun Cities Skydiving Club.”
Women in Sports