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Great grandmother celebrates 100th with sky dive

Athelstone great grandmother Irene O’Shea entered the history books when she celebrated her 100th birthday by jumping from a plane earlier this month.

<p>Irene O’Shea celebrated her 100th birthday with a sky dive, raising funds for Motor Neurone Disease</p>

Irene O’Shea celebrated her 100th birthday with a sky dive, raising funds for Motor Neurone Disease

Ms O’Shea, who turned 100 on 30 May, is the oldest South Australian and the second oldest Australian to tandem parachute jump from 12,000 feet, including a 35-second free fall.

“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do,” she said before the jump. “I thought this was a good opportunity to do it. I’m pretty excited.”

After the jump, Ms O’Shea had no regrets. “It was great – I enjoyed it!” she said.

Sky Diving instructor Jed Smith from SA Skydiving and his staff were thrilled to have the chance to help Ms O’Shea fulfil a life-long dream.

“For a 100-year-old to jump out of a plane, and have the confidence to do it, I think is fantastic,” he says. “It went really well. She had an absolute ball.”

As well as fulfilling a personal ambition, Ms O’Shea jumped to raise funds for Motor Neurone Disease (MND) research. Her daughter Shelagh died from MND in 2008.

She had asked family and friends to donate to the MND foundation in lieu of presents at her 100th birthday celebration at Athelstone two weeks ago.

Son-in-law Mike FitzHenry says the family were feeling slightly apprehensive, but are very proud of her.

“When she wants to do something, there’s no stopping her, really,” he says. “She’s always been adventurous.”

Ms O’Shea admits to being a ‘bit of a daredevil’. She has enjoyed riding as a pillion passenger on Harley Davidson motorbikes, last riding at 92 years old in the UK, and missed out on a balloon flight for her 80th birthday because of bad weather.

She has travelled the world by herself to over 22 countries, and drove herself and companions to most parts of Australia including Uluru, which she climbed at 64, and Perth at the age of 70.

Ms O’Shea still drives, despite having suffered a mild stroke a couple of years ago.

“Her license was suspended, but as soon as she could apply for it again, six weeks later, she went for it,” Mr FitzHenry says. “She’s a very determined lady.”

Ms O’Shea‘s husband Thomas died at the age of 43 in 1953, leaving her with two children, Shelagh and Michael. As a widow, she did odd jobs to make ends meet, like cleaning and chocolate making before emigrating from England to Australia in 1974, where she worked at the Magill Old People’s home as a nurses’ assistant.

Ms O’Shea lost her daughter Shelagh to Motor Neurone Disease at the age of 67 and her son Michael lives in the UK.

She has five grandchildren and 11 great grandchildren and lives at home with some support from ACH Group including shopping, domestic help and gardening.

To contribute to Ms O’Shea's MND fund, visit her gofundme page.

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