BUNGEE JUMP: Former Trojan jumps 240 feet at age 90
Published 3:00 am Saturday, August 27, 2016
In mid-August, several cars stopped on the well-traveled bridge that spans the Kentucky River to watch a bungee jumper plunge 240 feet from an old railroad trestle. Other motorists blew their horns in irritation.
But, if those angry motorists had known that the jumper was 90 years old and the oldest person to attempt the jump, they might also have stopped to watch.
Bill Dillard, Jr. of Auburn, chuckles when he thinks about bobbing up and down “on the end of a string” above the Kentucky River.
“It was exciting and fun but the best part was that I lived to tell about it,” Dillard said.
The brave gentleman was born in Troy, the son of a railroad worker. His family lived in a railroad house on North 3 Notch Street.
“I lived in Troy until I was five years old, then we picked up and moved to Columbus,” Dillard said. “I was just a little boy but I was so homesick for Troy that it was life threatening. I didn’t think I would survive.”
Dillard returned “home” to Troy often. As a teenager, he worked at McLeod’s Drug Store.
“When I got off every day, I would go sit on the base of the Confederate Monument and wait for somebody to drive by and give me a ride,” he said.
Dillard’s grandfather was Matthew Downer Pace, who served as president of Troy Normal School. A Troy University dorm is named in his honor as is the university’s baseball field.
Dillard’s aunt was Margaret Pace Farmer who wrote the definitive history of Pike County from 1821 to 1971.
“Troy is dear to me,” he said.
And, Dillard still has Troy’s “can do” and “give it all you’ve got” spirit.
So, when the team at Vertigo Bungee Club in Anderson County, Kentucky counted one, two, three, Dillard didn’t hesitate. He jumped, feet first, 240 feet from Young’s High Bridge.
“Let’s picture this,” Dillard said. “The jump platform was the height of a 14-story building. Wild Turkey Bourbon was spread out in front of me (manufactured in Tyrone, Kentucky). Behind me was the largest limestone quarry in the United States and a modern bridge was below me.
“I was thinking that, even with my aches and pains, I was so fortunate to be able to do this. The adrenaline was pumping. I jumped and gravity did all the work.
“When I hit the bottom, the bungee cord brought me up and I bobbed up and down about three times. Then the team reeled me back up.”
Dillard said the jump was thrilling and he was blessed to have been able to make his second bungee jump.
Back in 2000, he was in Queenstown, New Zealand and visited AJ Hackett Bungy and seeing the jumpers brought out the Scotch in Dillard.
“I thought about how many of my contemporaries were walking with canes, in wheelchairs and even bed ridden and I decided to do the bungee jump, to do something outrageous.”
Sixteen years later, he was ready to jump again.
Having logged a bungee jump, Dillard thought having a jump to his credit would propel him onto the platform at the Vertigo Bungee Club.
“I had researched bungee jumping parks and the one in Kentucky appealed most to me,” he said. “But, being 90, I knew I would have to make arrangements in advance. When I talked to them, I was told that I was questionable. There are global safety requirements.”
Dillard was told by the club manager that he could come but they were in no way obligated to let him bungee jump.
“I think they had sized me up over the telephone though,” he said.
Club manager Mitch Morris said each person’s physical condition is assessed to ensure a safe jump.
“Mr. Dillard is 16 years older than our oldest jumper. He passed with flying colors,” Morris said. “It was a great event for all of us.”
Even though he is “just an old stumblebum,” Dillard is blessed with an adventurous spirit.
“A long time ago” when he was 57 years old, he ran in the New York Marathon. Even today, he exercises two-and-a-half hours each day stretching and manipulating his joints.
“My inspiration to keep going comes from reading about an 85-year-old lady who wanted to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro,” Dillard said.
“She got half way up and got the flu but she kept going, putting one foot in front of the other until she reached the summit. That’s what I do. I keep putting one foot in front of the other each day.”