Pioneers Hold 24th Annual Reunion
Five Minute Call | Jun 23, 2023
Pioneers Hold 24th Annual Reunion

Cliff Davis

Mayor of Felicity Jacques-André Istel poses with a reproduction of his Parachute Club of America (USPA’s predecessor) Instructor License #1. Photo by Randy Forbes.

Above: Jacques-André Istel (center left) and Jay Stokes (center right) induct Jim McCormick (left) and Bill Jones into the Hall of Fame of Parachuting. Photo by Katie Boyd McVey.

The Pioneers of Sport Parachuting held its annual reunion at the Center of the World Museum in Felicity, California, March 9-12. This year marked the 37th birthday of Felicity, the town founded by Jacques-André Istel, I-1 (Instructor 1) and D-2. The population of Felicity is two: Istel and his wife, Felicia.

Kim Knor, D-221, and Linda Miller organized this year’s event with Tara Knor assisting. More than 100 pioneers (those who started jumping in 1965 or earlier), as well as less seasoned skydivers, gathered for four days of reminiscing and jumping. Since many of the pioneers are no longer jumping, the “newbies” were needed to fill up the jump plane and provide an audience for the attendees’ really old jump stories. Larry Hill of Skydive Arizona graciously provided his Pilatus Porter for the event.

Festivities started Thursday night at The Landing restaurant in nearby Yuma, Arizona, followed by skydiving on Friday at Felicity. The runway is just west of Felicity town proper in a melon field, and the parachute landings take place close to the Chapel on the Hill, located next to the granite monuments at Istel’s Center of the World Museum. The family of Jim Rinder, D-165, who passed away in 2022, hosted Friday night’s barbecue dinner. Rinder was famous for his jumping skill, as well as his involvement in the 1960s TV series “Ripcord!”

On Saturday, attendees conducted a celebration of life for Rinder, and Jay Stokes took Rinder’s granddaughter, Nikki, on a tandem to conduct his ash dive. Other Saturday activities included a memorial service in the Chapel on the Hill for high-altitude-record holder Col. Joe Kittinger; and Lee Guilfoyle, D-50, who ran Lakewood Sport Parachute Center in New Jersey for Istel in the 1960s. Istel and Jay Stokes also inducted Bill Jones and Jim McCormick into the Museum’s Hall of Fame of Parachuting. Jose Rodriguez supplied the wine for the evening banquet on the patio at Felicity.

Jumpers prepare to board the Porter for Jim Rinder’s ash dive. Photo by Hunter Amundson.

The reunion ended on Sunday, and the pioneers are already looking forward to the 25th reunion at Felicity next year. 

Cliff Davis | D -1594
Brenham, Texas

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