‘Thrilling’ hang-gliding flight taken at 80

from our March 2012 issue

By George Hennessy – Falkland, B.C.

I was born on Jan. 13, 1918 to pioneer parents on their homestead farm, 12 miles southwest of historic Battleford, Sask.

Mother, as a young woman, walked mostly behind a covered wagon from Nebraska to Battleford in 1901. My father, George William Hennessy, a 19-year-old, came to Canada with the Barr Colonists in 1903, dreaming of owning a homestead for $10.

The ‘dream’ home dad took his bride to was one he erected by means of plowing the virgin sod with two oxen and piling the 14-inch sod into a rectangle about 10-feet by 12-feet.

It had one opening for a door and another for a window. It was warm in winter and cool in summer.

Mom told us that in rainy weather the driest place to sleep was under the oilcloth-covered table! We can only imagine the hardships they endured.

Doctors traveled countryside

In those early years it was common for doctors to travel into the countryside to treat the very sick or to come to the aid of women giving birth to their babies.

Roads were poor at best during winter months, covered with several feet of drifting snow at times. The doctors, sometimes accompanied by a nurse, braved many miles in those pioneer days.

When I was born, roads were impassable so dad called a neighbour woman to assist mother. Luckily, there were no problems.

Looking back over the years, the wind played a large part in our lives, sometimes helping us, but more often preventing us from achieving our purposes. We learned to respond to, and respect, nature and the weather.

While growing up I always had a longing to do like the birds and fly to wherever I wanted to go.

I loved to ski with a piece of canvas that had slats held against my back to let the wind push me down the shiny and smooth sleigh tracks. This made for faster travel going in the same direction as the wind. Then, I would fold it up and carry it going back.

Was a war nurse

With the lack of sufficient education to become a pilot during the war years of 1939-45, I took army training and became a male nurse. I went overseas in 1943.

I became one of the very first to nurse the wounded back to sufficient health to be flown to England from the battlefields of Holland, Belgium, France, and Germany, as the front-line moved forward.

After the war, I returned to Canada and back to my wife, but found that my parents had both died of cancer while I was serving overseas.

A back injury from the war prevented me from continuing farm work, so after many different occupations, I took early retirement.

My jobs included mechanical work, clerking in the postal service, machine shop work and cutting glass, clerking in a hardware outlet, then delivering mail by truck, among other things.

I lived in William’s Lake, Vernon and finally in the small community of Falkland, B.C., where I had the good fortune to see men hang-gliding nearby in a world-class competition.

Soared to 7,500 feet

A conversation with the boss resulted in him inviting me to go up that weekend to hang-glide with one of the participants.

We took off from a nearby hilltop at 500-feet above sea level to soar up to 7,500 feet across beautiful countryside I had only been able to see from a four-wheel drive truck.

Our two-hour flight ended in a perfect landing, so I will remember that thrilling flight for the rest of my life. I was about 80 years old then.

As I write this at 94, I’m tempted to do it again because I am still active.

George Hennessy (right) getting last minute instruction from Scott, the hang-gliding instructor.
Takeoff on two-hour flight near Falkland, B.C. in 1991.

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