CUSHING, Okla. —
It took Warren Crawford a little more than four minutes to fall 10,000 feet. But it took him more than 70 years to keep his promise.
As Crawford’s feet touched the Oklahoma soil in a field in Cushing, he immediately turned to wave at his family standing 20 yards away.
Four generations of Crawfords came to watch the 91-year-old fulfill his lifelong wish of going sky diving. His two sons, Bud, 68, and Steve, 59, accompanied their dad on his latest adventure.
“I only have so much time left,” said Crawford, of Oklahoma City. “I figured I might as well keep living and use the life I have left in a good manner.”
The Crawford men are from a family of thrill seekers — sheep hunting on the narrow mountain passages of Alaska, scuba diving in some tropical destination or going on a safari adventure through the plains of Africa — this family has seen and done just about everything.
But Warren said he never got to go sky diving because of a promise to his wife, and he would never break a promise to her.
“She told me I can’t go sky diving because I couldn’t die before her,” he told The Oklahoman. “I didn’t want to do anything to displease her, so I agreed.”
Warren served in the states during World War II as a bombardier for the U.S. Army Air Corps. Later he would go on to become a bombardier trainer.
Crawford speaks proudly of serving his country, explaining how the men he trained won contests for accuracy when it came to dropping bombs.
It was while training men that he first got the desire to go sky diving. He knew all the procedures for the proper way of evacuating a plane in case of an emergency, but his crew was so stellar that they never had to do it.
“There was no need to practice something that you were supposed to get perfect,” Crawford said. “We knew that if we had to practice jumping out then we probably were in trouble.”
The urge to free fall through the sky still intrigued Crawford though, so after he was out of the war he approached his wife with the idea.
She said no, and Crawford never pushed it.
“That’s why they were married for 71 years,” Steve Crawford said. “He knew when she said ‘no’, she meant it.”
But Helen didn’t say never, and Crawford silently held onto his dream. The two went on to have three kids and traveled the world while Crawford made a living selling fire hydrants across the country.
The two were also health nuts, working out at their local YMCA every day. Crawford still can do about 50 chin-ups that leave the younger guys at the gym with their mouths agape.
Crawford lost his wife in June, just a short time after their 71st anniversary.
Things have been quieter around the house for Crawford. He still goes to the YMCA every day and does a fairly decent job of keeping the house clean, but he says he thinks about Helen frequently.
He said he knew if he was ever going to fulfill his wish of sky diving, that he’d better get to it soon. So he called up Bud and Steven and told them about it. They agreed to join him.
“After mom passed away, he brought it up pretty quickly,” Bud said. “We are all up to different adventures, and I figured if he was up for the challenge that I would go along with him to jump out of the airplane.”
Warren said before his jump that he wasn’t nervous, just eager to feel that rush.
As his family waited outside the hangar of Oklahoma Skydiving Center with their necks craned toward the sky, T.J., Crawford’s 12-year-old great-grandson, said he wished his great-grandmother could have been here to see the jump.
“It’s really neat that he’s finally getting to do this because he’s been waiting for a long time,” T.J. said. “I think she would’ve actually really liked to have been here.”
Kemp writes for The Oklahoman.