Grandmother celebrates 94 years with leap from plane


Eila Campbell, of Williamsport, has dreamed about skydiving for the past 20 years of her life — so she celebrated her 94th birthday by jumping out of a plane thousands of feet above the Poconos.

“I told my kids this year, ‘This is the time. I’ve got to do it because I might not be alive next year,’ “ Campbell said.

Campbell, a resident of Williamsport Home, went for a tandem jump in Hazleton on Oct. 22 to celebrate her birthday with some of her family members. Her granddaughter Sarah Schuelke, of Mifflinville, and great-granddaughter Jess Fox, of Media, jumped with her, Campbell said.

A tandem jump is when the skydiver is harnessed to an instructor with a parachute. The instructor guides the flight and landing.

About 15 years ago, Campbell had a brain aneurysm followed by surgery that she was told she might not survive. Though she’s blind in one eye, she pushed through until she could make her jump.

Campbell said she’s done all she wants to do in her life, and wouldn’t change a thing about it if she could.

Her late husband, John “Jack” Campbell, was a pilot who always had wanted to visit Elmira, New York, and learn how to glide, or pilot an aircraft without an engine.

He passed away without getting to realize that dream, she said.

“I’m sure he’s looking down and saying he wishes he had done it,” she said. “Don’t put off what you really want to do. Go ahead and do it; you don’t have to be afraid.”

Campbell added that she “wasn’t a bit frightened” because it was something she so badly wanted to do. And, if she gets the chance to jump again next year, she’ll do it.

“They asked me if I’d do it again next year and I said, ‘I doubt very much that I’ll be alive next year but, if I am, I’ll do it,’ “ she said with a laugh.

The 94-year-old’s high-flying adventure has caught international media attention.

Campbell said she’s received interview requests from across the country and as far as the United Kingdom and Germany. She and her family members have been interviewed by Rachael Ray and The Ellen Show officials as well, she said.

Campbell believes her story has garnered so much attention because it’s a nice break from bad news.

“It’s just been crazy,” she said. “You know what I think? It’s certainly not just me. I think, with all the awful stuff that’s in the news nowadays — fires, floods, hurricanes, drugs — this is like a ray of sunshine.”