Wednesday, August 12, 2009

On a brisk day, an 80th birthday flight to remember

Mary Ann Flaherty soars down from Baldy

Express Staff Writer

Safely down at River Run Saturday after a brisk tandem paragliding flight, Mary Ann Flaherty (front) continues her 80th birthday celebration with her four children, from left, Kathy Dempsay of Jerome, Bill Flaherty of Bellevue, Donna Scifres of Bellevue and Mike Flaherty of Boise. Mary Annís late husband, 40-year Sun Valley Resort employee Jack Flaherty, would have been proud of the spirit shown by his beloved wife of 55 years. Photo by Jeff Cordes

Former President George H.W. Bush called it an exhilarating feeling when he celebrated his 85th birthday June 13 by making a tandem parachute jump near his home in Kennebunkport, Maine.

Mary Ann Flaherty of Ketchum had a similar feeling of exhilaration Saturday, Aug. 8 when she celebrated her 80th birthday by tandem paragliding from the top of Baldy to River Run with Fly Sun Valley owner/operator Chuck Smith.

Her face was bright red when she landed, and it wasn't because of embarrassment. She had a wonderful time and enjoyed every minute. "I felt really comfortable going round and round in the air," she said.

No, Mary Ann's face was red because of the weather.

It was a very cool, brisk mountain morning and Flaherty wisely wore her ski pants. One of Fly Sun Valley's pilots, Gary Begley, said it best, commenting as he rolled up the glider, "It was cold up there."

The 15-minute flight was a birthday gift from her family and children, and they all gathered at the landing site to greet her warmly. One of Mary Ann's sons, Mike, was first off the top of Baldy on his own flight with Begley. Mary Ann came next.

After many photos, they moved over to Mary Ann's new condominium in the River Run area for a family birthday gathering and to discuss the adventure—Mary Ann's first paragliding flight off a mountain, although she has previously soared behind powerboats in warmer climes.

The children of Mary Ann and the late Jack Flaherty who welcomed her at the landing site were Donna Scifres of Bellevue, Bill Flaherty of Bellevue, Mike Flaherty of Boise and Kathy Dempsay of Jerome. Her three grandchildren also joined the fun day—Tanya Scifres of Nampa, Vanessa Scifres of Phoenix, Az. and Sean Dempsay of Jerome.

As with many such endeavors, the idea of a paragliding flight came from a casual comment made when Mary Ann was coming home with her son-in-law, Scott Scifres, from a wood gathering trip over Galena Summit.

They saw paragliders in the air as they approached River Run and Scott asked Mary Ann, "Would you go?" She said, "Sure, I'd go." Saturday morning, safely down, she commented that you never know what's going to happen when you start "blowing off steam," with a comment like that.

With overcast skies and misty clouds atop Baldy, Saturday's winds were light. After she landed, Scott Scifres posed the same question to his mother-in-law. "So, would you go again?" And she replied, "Sure, when there's more wind and we can go farther."

Everybody laughed. "She's always up for something," Scott said with a smile.

How was the view? It definitely gave her a different perspective on Baldy's ski slopes.

The former Mary Ann Cieslik from the Omaha's flats said, "They looked pretty steep from the air. I said to myself, how did I ever ski down those steep runs?"

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