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Saturday, December 15 , 2018, 4:08 am | Fair 42º


Betty Rosness Celebrates Her 90th Birthday by Jumping Out of Plane for Charity

The Goleta Valley resident aims high with a skydiving adventure to raise awareness for her most beloved nonprofit organizations

No one was surprised when Betty Rosness announced that she would ring in her 90th birthday not just with cake, candles and song, but by hurling herself out of a plane at 11,000 feet.

She would skydive, she told her friends, to raise awareness for all the causes she loved most.

[Scroll down to see video of Betty Rosness landing]

Rosness, who has been a fixture in the Goleta Valley for more than four decades, has volunteered over the years with Girls Inc., the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission and a host of others.

Don't give me gifts this year, she told her friends, just donate to those worthy organizations.

An Oklahoma native, Rosness moved to Goleta in 1968, when she opened an ad agency in the area and began learning about the needs of local nonprofits. Prior to that, Rosness worked as a radio salesman, copywriter and broadcaster, and even as a press assistant to then-U.S. Sen. Frank Carlson of Kansas for five years.

Her life in Goleta is marked by community involvement. Rosness has volunteered for and served on the boards of 32 organizations during the past 42 years. It seemed fitting that her birthday would include giving some attention to those groups.

So just hours after turning 90, Rosness was zipped into a bright yellow jumpsuit inside a hangar belonging to Sky Dive Santa Barbara at the Lompoc Airport, waving to the 40 or so people who had come to watch her tandem jump as the small, single-engine plane carrying her lifted off the ground, disappearing into the sky.

When Rosness got the idea, she said she didn't want it to be a stunt or to be silly.

"I prayed a lot about this before I did it," she said. "I didn't want to do anything silly or stupid. … I just wanted to bring attention to these organizations and the amazing work they do."

Rosness, who admits she doesn't even like to drive, decided that she would ask her kids and her doctor if she could make the jump, and if everyone gave the OK, she would go for it.

Go for it she did, and she wasn't the only one to jump out of a plane on Tuesday.

Betty Rosness
Betty Rosness checks in with Sky Dive Santa Barbara staff and her grandson, Shawn, after landing on the ground. (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk photo)

Rosness' grandson, Shawn, traveled from Germany to spend the day with his grandmother and to continue on with a family visit to Arizona, but had surprised her at the very last minute.

He had called on Tuesday, expressing sadness that he couldn't be with her on her special day, and as the pair were about to hang up, he told Rosness to open her front door.

He was standing there with flowers, ready to hug his grandmother.

Shawn decided on a whim to skydive with his grandmother the next day, and that "it's always something I've wanted to do," he said.

Flight holds a special place in the hearts of those in the Rosness family.

Betty's husband, Hank, was a U.S. Air Force lieutenant colonel who flew in the most decorated class in West Point history.

After Hank died in 2012 from Parkinson's disease, Rosness and her three sons and their wives traveled to West Point last May for the 70-year reunion of Hank's class. It was a moving experience for the family to see the 12 men in Hank's class, many of them in wheelchairs or with walkers, be celebrated for their heroism, knowing that Hank's contribution was being honored as well.

With the skydiving, "I think she just wanted to experience the flight that her husband had," said longtime friend Patricia Montemayor.

Hank flew 66 missions during World War II in Normandy, but "he never did like doing jumps," Rosness said of the paratrooper training her husband was required to do.

If Rosness felt any of that apprehension her husband was prone to, it didn't show Tuesday.

The crowd gathered along the gravel landing area to watch Rosness and her grandson land. For several minutes, all eyes were trained on the sky, waiting and watching.

Slowly, a red and yellow parachute drifted into view, until Rosness' bright yellow jumpsuit could be seen.

She and her tandem jumper touched down on the ground, and Rosness was on earth again, her friends cheering her on in the distance as she waved to them.

Rosness said she felt fine "but a little dizzy," she admitted, but that the view was "amazing."

She and Shawn climbed into a van that drove them both back to the hangar.

"I always wished I was brave enough to do something like this," she reflected after landing, her hair still tousled from the jump as attendants helped her out of the tandem harness.

Rosness continued the celebration on Tuesday evening at her church, Good Shepherd Lutheran in Goleta, and asked that donations be made to Cottage Health System, Girls Inc., the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission, the Scholarship Foundation of Santa Barbara, Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, the Santa Barbara County Women’s Health Coalition and the Goleta Valley Chamber of Commerce.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Betty Rosness-Parachute-Landing from Noozhawk on Vimeo.

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