North Dakotans Honor the Legacy of a Skydiving Pioneer
People | May 14, 2024
North Dakotans Honor the Legacy of a Skydiving Pioneer

Justin Wageman

Megean Solberg announces the establishment of a foundation in Donald Solberg’s honor. Photo by Amy Anderson/Eclipse Multimedia.

Above: Friends and family gather to remember Donald J. Solberg during his celebration of life. Photo by Teri Bense.

On Friday, February 2, the sport of skydiving lost one of its pioneers with the passing of 79-year-old Don Solberg, the founder of Skydive Fargo in North Dakota (one of the oldest active clubs in the nation), after a two-year battle with illness. Exactly one month later, Skydive Fargo hosted a celebration of Solberg’s life in the club’s hangar. The schedule included music, lunch, open sharing and a presentation by his daughter, Megean, titled “Leaving a Legacy.” This included photos and memorabilia from Don’s “skydiving museum,” a spare bedroom in his home filled with countless items from his lifetime participation in the sport. Local news media, friends, family and skydivers from across the country attended, as did the former state governor who years earlier had recognized Solberg for achieving 2,000 jumps.

Don Solberg and the history of skydiving in North Dakota are practically inseparable. He was born in Peoria, Illinois, but his family moved to North Dakota to start a drugstore when he was very young. His dad, a pharmacist, was also a pilot, and Solberg made his first jump from his dad’s plane at the age of 21. Though he threw up on the way down, he fell in love with the sport. Shortly after that first jump in 1965, Solberg was a founding member of the first club in North Dakota, KATY-HI Skydivers. His passion, leadership and unrelenting commitment had a direct influence on the evolution of skydiving in the state, from KATY-HI Skydivers, to Valley Skydivers (1967) and finally to Skydive Fargo (1997).

Solberg was a USPA member for more than 60 years. During this time, he received numerous competition trophies and awards, including the 2016 USPA Regional Achievement Award. He was also a lifetime member of the Parachutists Over Phorty Society. His final jump was at the age of 70.

Solberg’s biggest contribution to the sport was keeping it alive and thriving. During some of the most difficult early years, when club membership was at its lowest and there were no assets, Solberg, as the only instructor at the time, kept skydiving alive in North Dakota by his sheer determination. To promote skydiving and increase club membership, he taught one-credit skydiving courses at a local university from 1972-1980. Some of those classes had more than 20 students enrolled. These college courses were in addition to the first-jump courses he also taught at the drop zone.


Solberg poses with a few of his many skydiving trophies circa 1973.

Solberg touched hundreds of lives through his infectious enthusiasm and love of skydiving. He was a true role model, mentor and friend to all who passed through the club’s hangar doors. The result and direct impact of his relentless passion for skydiving continues today and is embodied in the spirit of the current club, its active membership base and assets that include the latest in skydiving gear, up-to-date training, modern facilities and two aircraft. Some of the most experienced, current members of Skydive Fargo learned how to skydive from him.

At the end of the celebration of life, Megean Solberg announced the establishment of The Donald J. Solberg North Dakota Legacy Skydiving Foundation to provide skydiving opportunities to the local community and surrounding areas, as well as resources to the club. Each year in June, Donald Solberg’s birth month, the foundation will select one person to make an all-expenses-paid skydive in his honor. The foundation will grant the remaining funds to the club for education, resources and general needs. The foundation exists to promote Skydive Fargo, the sport of skydiving in North Dakota and the legacy of Solberg’s dedication and passion.

Jumpers can find more information about the foundation and photos from the celebration of life event by searching for “Donald J. Solberg” on Facebook or emailing Megean Solberg at msolbergdonaldjsolbergndlsf@gmail.com.

Justin Wageman | D-34620
West Fargo, North Dakota

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