An associate pastor at Lodi's Westside Assembly will celebrate his 80th birthday in a big way — by jumping 14,000 feet from an airplane at the Parachute Center south of Jahant Road in Acampo.
Leo Duncan, a senior pastor for 28 years in Fremont and Southern California before becoming an associate pastor 16 years ago in Lodi, decided about five years ago that he would celebrate his 80th birthday jumping from a plane.
His birthday is actually Sunday, but being occupied with spiritual matters that day, he chose to jump on his final day of being a 79-year-old.
Senior Pastor Chan Keith and many members of the Westside Assembly congregation are expected to be at the Parachute Center, where Duncan is expected to jump between 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. on Saturday.
A daughter and her family will come to Acampo from Portland, Ore., and another daughter is coming from the San Diego area.
"The whole congregation is sort of excited about it," Keith. "Leo's just a very, very unusual 80-year-old."
Even though Saturday will be his first-ever jump, Duncan insists he isn't nervous.
"Why should I be nervous?" Duncan said.
He maintains that his wife, Leona, isn't nervous, either.
"No, I've got insurance," he said.
As for the event itself, Duncan looks at it this way: "If it's a good jump, I jump once; if it's a bad jump, I jump once."
But seriously, Duncan said he feels comfortable about what faces him Saturday because he'll be parachuting in tandem with a professional jumper in the same chute.
But the humor kept flowing Tuesday morning in Keith's office on Tuesday morning, some of it on the morbid side.
KEITH: "Leo has presidential characteristics, so it's not surprising that he would follow Bush 41 (George Herbert Walker Bush)."
DUNCAN: "I've been in lots of (planes). It's time I jumped out of one."
KEITH: "Maybe we should contact the Catholic church about doing last rites. At our church, we don't do last rites. We say, 'Catch you later.'"
Although Duncan's never jumped out of a plane, he's had his share of adventures. He jumped off a barn with his mother's umbrella as an 8-year-old in Kansas, though he says that's a typical childhood activity in Kansas.
Post-jump festivitiesLeo and Leona Duncan will have an open house from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday at their home. For more information, call the church at 333-8491 or Duncan at 470-9002.
He and his wife also went parasailing in Mexico, where they went up the equivalent of 12 stories in a parachute, six or eight years ago.
They held onto a rope behind a boat on Mexican beach while standing on the sand. After the boat takes off, you run six or eight steps, and then you're in the air, Duncan said.
"What a better way to celebrate your 80th birthday," Sawyer said, talking about Saturday's jump. "It takes a lot of courage — I don't know if I could do it."
When Duncan isn't jumping out of airplanes, he teaches Sunday school, helps seniors in the congregation and organizes mission conventions. He's been an ordained minister for 58 years.