This 94-year-old is always up for a new challenge


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Posted Online: April 16, 2013, 6:49 pm
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By John Marx, jmarx@qconline.com
Bud Benner moves to the edge of his easy chair, turns both palms to the sky and shrugs.

"I have no idea how you are supposed to act at (age) 94,'' says the Rock Island man. "As soon as I know how I'm supposed to act and feel, I'll get in line. Until then, I'll do it my way.''

And his way is the exciting way.

In addition to playing golf five times a week, Mr. Benner recently found time to ride in a NASCAR race car at 165 mph, make three zipline runs at 800 feet and eight at 300 feet and take a helicopter ride through the Grand Canyon. All in the last nine months.

And he also went skydiving over Cape Canaveral, Fla., in January.

It's been two years since Mr. Benner lost his sweetheart, Nelda, his bride of 70 years. While there is no replacing something so near and dear to him, Mr. Benner knew he could not sit still after her death.

"Having grandkids and great-grandkids who know I like to go and do has helped,'' Mr. Benner said of life without his Nelda. "They give me neat things to do as gifts and find challenges for me. You never really get past losing someone so special, but it's good to find things to do to take your mind off it. I'm pretty good at going and doing.''

Since he has a stock-car-racing background, the NASCAR ride was exciting but pedestrian for Mr. Benner. The zipline rides got his attention, and the flight through the tight rifts of the Grand Canyon was beautiful beyond belief.

Jump Video:


But free-falling at 10,000 feet, the rush of a parachute opening and the calmness of the descen, topped everything.

"There is no other feeling like it,'' Mr. Benner said of skydiving. "When the chute opens, though, your breath leaves you, and it doesn't come back for a minute. Then you see everything as you float to the ground. Amazing is what it is.''

At six years shy of 100, Mr. Benner set records for the oldest person to try the zipline at a facility at Lake Tahoe, Nev., and the oldest to use the jump station at Cape Canaveral.

"Beat the zipline record by 10 years,'' he said with a laugh. "Got framed certificates from both places.''

The aforementioned thrills, it should be noted, were not part of his bucket list. There is one thing on that list.

"I want to fly one of those ultralights,'' Mr. Benner said, referring to lightweight, one- or two-seat fixed-wing aircraft. "That's on my bucket list. I miss my flying days. I'll probably jump out of a plane again, but the ultralight is next.''

Why?

Because that is what 94-year-olds like Bud Benner are supposed to do.


Columnist John Marx can be reached at (309) 757-8388 or jmarx@qconline.com.


















 



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  Today is Monday, Sept. 22, the 265th day of 2014. There are 100 days left in the year.

1864 -- 150 years ago: The board of education has granted Thursday as a holiday for the children, with the expectation that parents who desire to have their children attend the Scott County Fair will do so on that day and save irregularity the rest of the week.
1889 -- 125 years ago: The guard fence around the new cement walk at the Harper House has been removed. The blocks are diamond shape, alternating in black and white.
1914 -- 100 years ago: The Rev. R.B. Williams, former pastor of the First Methodist Church, Rock Island, was named superintendent of the Rock Island District.
1939 -- 75 years ago: Abnormally high temperatures and lack of rainfall in Illinois during the past week have speeded maturing of corn and soybean crops.
1964 -- 50 years ago: Installation of a new television system in St. Anthony's Hospital, which includes a closed circuit channel as well as the three regular Quad-Cities channels, has been completed and now is in operation.
1989 -- 25 years ago: When the new Moline High School was built in 1958, along with it were plans to construct a football field in the bowl near 34th Street on the campus. Wednesday afternoon, more than 30 years later, the Moline Board of Education Athletic Board sent the ball rolling toward the possible construction of that field by asking superintendent Richard Hennigan to take to the board of education a proposal to hire a consultant.






(More History)