Lehnherr Celebrates 50 Years of Skydiving with Challenging Formation
People | Nov 21, 2022
Lehnherr Celebrates 50 Years of Skydiving with Challenging Formation

Claudia Hine

Above: Jerry Lehnherr (purple jumpsuit and helmet) and friends mark Lehnherr’s 50th year of skydiving. Photo by Pete Jabczynski.

At Skydive Chicago in Ottawa, Illinois, on September 24, a group of very experienced jumpers—with a collective 95,000 skydives—gathered to commemorate Jerry Lehnherr, D-7722, and his 50th anniversary in the sport. The event provided a perfect counterpoint to the Rookiefest event for newer jumpers, which was taking place at the drop zone the same weekend. 

Lehnherr (or “Cheese,” as the Wisconsin native is affectionately known) conceptualized a three-point 16-way that formed the number 50. Ron Olson of skyviews.net and Pete Jabczynski of SkyJabo Productions captured the formation from above and below. The skydive brought all the jumpers together on the first point, then split into the “5” and “0” for the second point. To capture the number correctly from underneath for the third point, the jumpers forming the “5” repositioned while the “0” jumpers held firm. According to Lehnherr, “Design and transition of the formation points was tricky to figure out and required a lot of time on my part, as well as on the part of my co-designer, T. J. Hine.”

Along with Lehnherr on the anniversary jump were Tom Camire, Megan Earlywine, Chuck Finley, Sally Finley, T. J. Hine, Doug Janssen, Phil Lamm, Todd Ogino, Russell Patterson, Barb Terlap, Mark Thompson, Bruce Turner, Gene Vetterli, Casey Wiggins and Paul Wold. Jumping from the DZ’s Twin Otter, the group enjoyed sunny 64-degree weather. The first two jumps were unsuccessful but on the third attempt, the group completed the three points. 

Jumpers and friends celebrate with commemorative hoodies sporting a specially designed “50 Years of Cheese” logo. Photo by Pete Jabczynski.

Deb Lehnherr, Jerry’s facilitator, packer and wife (in that order), gave all the participants tie-dyed hoodies sporting a custom-designed “50 Years of Cheese” logo. She also presented her husband with a quilt, handmade by his sister, that consists of skydiving T-shirts accumulated over his many years in the sport.

Lehnherr made his first jump on September 23, 1972, at Seven Hills Skydivers in Columbus, Wisconsin. It was a 3,000-foot static-line jump from a Cessna 182 under a round canopy—a T-10.  Lehnherr remarked, “For a bullet-proof 21-year-old, it was still very scary!”

His 50 years in the sport have taken him to at least 44 DZs in three countries. He has competed in six USPA Nationals events and has five medals to show for it, and he holds at least 15 records (so far).  What keeps him in the sport? “Just don’t know how to stop jumping out of airplanes,” he said. “And I have so many friends in the sport. Good friends, good vibes, good jumps, great memories, best wife!”

You might think a 50-year veteran with 9,677 jumps would be a bit blasé about one more. But you’d be wrong. “It’s always an exhilarating rush!” he exclaimed. Indeed it was.

Claudia Hine
Chicago, Illinois

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