Nevada County man celebrates 85th birthday by jumping from plane |

Nevada County man celebrates 85th birthday by jumping from plane

Murray Arnold always wanted to jump out of an airplane, but he never really got the chance until he had reached his “golden years.”

Even during his three years of active duty in the Navy reserves from 1943-46, when he was aboard an aircraft carrier that furnished planes to larger carriers throughout the Pacific, Arnold never go an opportunity to take the plunge into the wild blue yonder.

So five years ago, at the age of 80, Arnold decided it was time. He drove down to the Lodi Airport and then came home with a skydiving memory that, he said, will last a lifetime.

But when he delivered the news to his wife, Marilyn, he did so by handing off a videotape while telling her “you might want to take a look at this.”

“She was upset with me for a little while,” Arnold said. “But she was glad I did it, because I had wanted to for so long.”

A few weeks ago, five years after his first jump, Arnold decided to celebrate his 85th birthday with another drive to Lodi and another leap from an airplane at 13,000 feet.

“When you’re free falling, you’re doing 120 miles per hour or so, so you see that ground coming up pretty fast,” Arnold said. “You’re just laying out there flat, just looking around. It’s such a rush. And when the chute opens, there’s such a jerk, but then you’re floating around up there and it’s just beautiful. It was just beautiful.”

Though he wouldn’t describe himself as a lifelong thrill-seeker, Arnold has had quite a busy career – before and after his retirement from the Pacific Telephone Company after 35 years.

“I’ve seen quite a few changes,” Arnold said. “When I started there, you were turning the crank to get into the operator. Now look at what we’ve got with all these (smart) phones.

“I mean, you had to turn a crank just to get the electricity to drop into the operator when I started. I remember when we went from dial to push button and when people still wanted to talk to the operator. Yeah, it’s been quite a change.”

After retiring from the phone company, Arnold went to work as a volunteer with the Nevada County Sheriff’s Office, where he still patrols and serves subpoenas today as one of 45 staff volunteers.

He also remains active with the Penn Valley Rodeo Association, handling security details for the annual rodeo, for which he served as grand marshal during the 50th anniversary celebration.

Arnold and his wife used to raise horses on their 5 acres on the Penn Valley ranch, but these days only a couple of goats are out to pasture.

He plans to continue with his volunteer work to keep him busy as long as he can, hopefully even until his 90th birthday, when he plans to make his next skydiving expedition.

“It’s quite a thrill,” he said. “If I was closer to Lodi, I’d do it more often. But I’ll just wait till I’m 90.”

Contact Sports Editor Brian Hamilton via e-mail at or by phone at 477-4240.

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