You only turn 90 once.
That was Veta Arnold’s thought when she observed the milestone on Dec. 27. She jumped out of an airplane with her daughter, Hopi Reames of Redlands; and granddaughters, Naomi Reames of Arcadia and Becca Reames of Riverside.
“It seemed like it would be a lot of fun to me because I’ve always had an interest in flying,” said the Redlands woman last week.
Arnold was born on Dec. 28, 1925 in the small mountain town of Rifle, Colo.
Her love for flying began at a young age, she said. Her father, Hays Wilson, was an aircraft mechanic in France during World War I as an American serviceman. And during World War II, Arnold did her part on American soil by piloting aircraft through the Civil War Patrol in Colorado. The all-volunteer service group is an auxiliary of the United States Air Force and “performs Missions for America,” according to its website.
“The government had donated to a group of us in town a small plane and we were supposed to go around and search for any problems,” she said.
When she became the mother of two children, Hopi and Joel Arnold of Durango, Colo., she stopped flying and started a career in teaching.
The family later moved to Oxnard before settling in Redlands in 1962.
She began teaching math and Cope Junior High School and later went into counseling.
As her career flourished and her children continued to grow, Arnold stayed busy with hobbies, including gardening, and staying active in her tight-knit Redlands community on Bella Vista Crest.
Still, she said, in the back of her mind was always the joy she experienced in flight.
Arnold enlisted the help of the skydiving team at Skydive Perris in Perris.
After filling out paperwork, Arnold was ready to go. Her daughter was apprehensive.
“I was the scared one,” Reames said, laughing.
Added Arnold, “We were walking to the plane but we had to wait because — my professional jumper for the tandem skydive — was on another dive and he came rushing over to us. But in the meantime, we were watching others being loaded on the plane with about 20 people.”
“They have you smashed in there with only about 18 inches per person,” Reames said. “We were pretty much butt-to-butt.”
The Arnold family watched others dive out of the plane before their turn. Arnold had not one nerve in her body, she said.
“I felt excited and not like I was in any danger at all. I had no concerns,” she said. “I was just in seventh heaven. I was elated and excited. I would have been ready to go back right away… because to have the family up there made it so much more fun.”
Arnold has not made plans yet for her 91st birthday celebration, but she hopes to return to Skydive Perris for her 100th.
Should Arnold not make it to 100, she’s OK with that.
“I’ve had a wonderful life. I have no regrets. I feel so fortunate,” she said. “I would (encourage others) to live life fully. It’s a wonderful gift.”