MARSHALL, Mich. (July 9, 2014) — He was an experienced skydiver, having jumped thousands of times during his lifetime. But as the family of 76 year-old George Speakman continues to cope with their tragic loss, they are comforted knowing he died doing what he loved.
Jessica Gromaski sums it up by saying her dad was a rockstar.
“Some would say he lived to have his head in the clouds so he definitely, was certainly experienced,” Gromaski said.
George Speakman, 76, could have jumped in his sleep. That’s why it’s so hard for his daughter to wrap her head around what went wrong July 6th.
“It was a recertification jump which is why it was only 4,500 feet,” Gromaski explained.
“Normally he would jump anywhere from 10,000 to 13,500 feet. So this was just what they call a hop and pop where you hop out of the plan and pop your chute. It takes all of about 30 seconds from start to finish, which is why it came as such a shock.”
But Gromaski doesn’t dwell on that. Instead, she remembers some of the last moments she spent with her hero.
“He and I had dinner together and it was just laid back and very relaxing conversation and he shared with me his plans for the weekend.”
Speakman died a few days later during a jump at Brooks Field in Marshall.
“The peace I have made with it is he didn’t suffer and that he was certainly doing something he absolutely truly loved to do,” Gromaski said.
Speakman developed a passion for skydiving during his time serving in the Korean War. His talents eventually took him to new heights, having jumped with Johnny Carson and appeared as a stunt man for a movie starring Lloyd Bridges called “The Daring Game.”
But ironically, Gromaski never shared that same passion.
“I used to tell him, dad there is no reason to jump out of a perfectly good plane and he would say, kids you show me a perfectly good airplane,” Gromaski loving recalled.
While tragic, Gromaski knows her father would never discourage anyone from trying skydiving.
“If you want to do it, go for it, live for it.”
Gromaski said her father suffered a stroke last year and this jump was a way of knowing he could still do it. She said Speakman took some time off to care for his longtime girlfriend, who recently passed away.
The FAA never found anything wrong with Speakman’s parachute. The investigation is still ongoing.