KENNEBUNKPORT, Maine - Former President George H.W. Bush can no longer use his legs, but he isn't letting that keep him from jumping from an aircraft on his 90th birthday.
Bush announced via Twitter on Thursday that he intends to make a tandem parachute jump near his summer home in Kennebunkport, Maine. It was a vow he made five years ago when he marked his 85th birthday by skydiving.
The announcement was kept secret until the last minute, partly to give Bush the option of bagging it. Thursday's forecast called for clouds and scattered showers in southern Maine.
Spokesman Jim McGrath says the 41st president likes both a surprise and an adrenaline rush. He said the president hopes to show that seniors can remain active, even though he now uses a wheelchair.
A private dinner to be held in his honor Thursday evening has an invite list includes more than 200 relatives and friends, a family spokesman said.
Many of the guests are from his days in the White House, including former press secretary Marlin Fitzwater, White House counsel Boyden Gray and political director Ron Kaufman, spokesman Jim McGrath said. His children, including former President George W. Bush and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, will be there, McGrath said.
During his presidential years, Bush was known for jogging, tennis and fast-paced golf but now uses a wheelchair because of a form of parkinsonism that has robbed him of use of his legs.
"He's lost his mobility, but he hasn't lost his heart. He's still the genuine person that we've come to cherish," said Ken Raynor, a friend and pro at the Cape Arundel Golf Club.
The 41st president lives in Houston but has spent every summer at the three-story, stone-and-shingle home in Maine except when he was a naval aviator during World War II.
During the war, he bailed out of his airplane over the Pacific. Later, he decided to jump from a plane of his own accord and marked his 75th, 80th and 85th birthdays by skydiving.
While his activities are now limited, Bush still enjoys taking out his boat, Fidelity.
"He's always loved going fast. He loves the speed. He loves the adrenaline," McGrath said.
Jon Meacham, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author and historian who is writing a book about Bush, said the former president is used to being in motion, so it isn't easy for him to slow down.
The president feels lucky nonetheless, Meacham said.
"He had a remarkable great run of good health and good family and good friends," he said. "So I know his chief view of life at 90 is one of immense gratitude. He's very grateful for his parents, he's grateful for Barbara, he's grateful for his kids. He knows he's one of the luckiest guys who ever lived, really."
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