Pictured is Dr. Paul Grossnickle after he jumped out of a plane Monday at Plymouth Municipal Airport. Grossnickle jumped to celebrate his 90th birthday, which was June 22. Photo Provided
Pictured is Dr. Paul Grossnickle after he jumped out of a plane Monday at Plymouth Municipal Airport. Grossnickle jumped to celebrate his 90th birthday, which was June 22. Photo Provided
Many people celebrate their birthdays by having cake and ice cream.
Dr. Paul Grossnickle, Warsaw, celebrated his 90th birthday by jumping out of a plane with a parachute Monday at Plymouth Municipal Airport.
Grossnickle Eye Center also had a party for him June 24.
Grossnickle was born June 22, 1924, in North Manchester, to Gorman and Lena. He is the youngest of seven children and has one sister and five brothers. His family and friends had a party for him on his birthday at his home.
While Monday’s jump was his first, he hopes to do several more.
“In all my years of flight we always wore a parachute  in the Navy, but I never had to jump,” Grossnickle said.
He said it has been his goal for the past 10 years to jump out of a plane.
President George H.W. Bush made the jump when he was 80, 85 and recently at 90. Grossnickle said, “I thought if that old boy can do it, I can do it.”
Lauren Snodgrass, Warsaw, went with Grossnickle. She is the granddaughter of Grossnickle’s friend Helen Miller, Warsaw.
“It was an exciting thing and nothing to be afraid of. All I was doing was jumping,” Grossnickle said.
He jumped with a parachute and instructor 10,000 feet in the air.
Grossnickle attended North Manchester grade school and high school, graduating at 17.
Grossnickle met his wife, Jane, in high school. He was 17, and she was 16.
He was in the Navy when he and his wife married Sept. 3, 1944, in North Manchester, when he was on a week’s leave. She died in January.
He has two sons, Steven and Bruce. He has six grandchildren and three great-great-grandchildren.
Grossnickle entered the Navy at 18 for flight training and became a fighter pilot in the Navy, serving from 1942 to 1945. He flew an F6F Hellcat in the South Pacific and spent a year and a half in training and then got his Gold Wings. He went to Florida to learn how to fly the Hellcat.
“F means it’s a fighter plane, the sixth model and the other F is for Grumman, the aircraft company that made the plane,” Grossnickle said.
When World War II broke out in 1941 the Navy wanted a plane that was as fast and maneuvrable as the Japanese Zero plane and so they came out with the Hellcat in early 1942.
When Grossnickle was asked what influenced his love of flying, he said he had an interest in planes.
“I always thought planes were great and wanted to be a part of the war in a plane and didn’t want to walk,” Grossnickle said. “The Hellcat changed the tide of the war in the Pacific because when the war was over we were knocking down 16 planes for every one of our planes that was knocked down.”
He went to Chicago on an aircraft carrier and was an aircraft fighter pilot in the South Pacific in Guam and Saipan in 1945.
He got out of the Navy in 1945 once World War II was over.
He went to Chicago and attended Northern Illinois College of Optometry, graduating in 1950 with a doctor of optometry degree.
His best friend was a Marine who got recalled to active duty to fight in the Korean War.
Grossnickle was released to inactive duty from the Navy in 1945, but not discharged. His friend went back into the Navy and Grossnickle went back in as an optometerist in 1950, caring for Navy people and their dependents.
He started Grossnickle Eye Center in 1957 in Warsaw when he got out of the Navy.
Grossnickle worked at Grossnickle Eye Center from 1957, retiring eight years ago at age 80.
When asked what has contributed to his longevity he said, “Liking to work. I hated to retire because I liked my patients. That is what kept me going.”
He said he exercises once a day to keep healthy, and has exercise equipment at his home.
He said his advice for a long life is to keep busy.
He likes to golf and do woodworking now that he is retired. He looks forward to going to a Chicago Cubs game in August with Grossnickle Eye Center employees.