Ivy Hodge Baker drops through the air above North Carolina a ttached to a skydiving instructor. The 84-year-old Virgin Islander’s daughters gifted her the adventure. (Photo: Provided)

Ivy Hodge Baker, an 84-year-old Virgin Islander, didn’t expect that she would be hitting terminal velocity December 16 when her daughter Carol Baker-Phillips asked for her help to pick up a package.

About two hours later, the pair arrived at an airfield in North Carolina, where they saw Diane Baker Gregory, another of Ms. Hodge Baker’s six daughters, standing with her husband.

They were not picking up a package, but the octogenarian was still receiving an early Christmas present. Unbeknownst to Ms. Hodge Baker, her children had purchased two tickets for her to go skydiving with Ms. Bakery Gregory and fall 120 miles per hour from a height of 12,500 feet.

“I tell my children all the time, when I think about where I came from, how I grew up: Who would have thought that something like this would ever have happened in my lifetime?” Ms. Hodge Baker told the Beacon on Tuesday.

Frequent flier miles

Ms. Hodge Baker is from Frenchmans Cay. After a lifetime of adventure and travel, she still misses her homeland.

“I wish I was in the Virgin Islands,” she said. “It’s cold here.”

“Here” is North Carolina, where she has been living for the past 15 years. Before that, she spent 37 years in Omaha, Nebraska with her husband of 64 years. Before Omaha, it was Montana, North Dakota and Indiana.

“All extremely cold places,” Ms. Hodge Baker said. “My husband was in the Air Force in the States and always stationed in northern territories. The good thing about it, … we would get an assignment and we would go to places like Puerto Rico, Guam, Okinawa — you know, warm places where you could enjoy life.”

Big dreams

Before her life of travel began, Ms. Hodge Baker came of age in the Virgin Islands and dreamed of the life she was to live.

“When we were growing up there, we had very little,” she said. “As children, the ocean was our playground. I could sit on my mother’s porch and look in the ocean and see the fish swimming by.”

She reminisced about how airplanes would visit the territory and how cruise ships would come to an area behind Frenchmans Cay called Tunnels Point.

“We would go there to swim, and we’d play and pick grapes and just frolic,” she said. “I wished when I was grown one day, I would be able to do it: to be on a ship, to be on the ocean like that. With the grace of God, I was able to. Many, many times.”

She also dreamed of jumping out of an airplane.

Ms. Hodge Baker celebrates with family members who watched her skydive. (Photo: Provided)

But the Saturday jump would come as a surprise to her, as the preparation was carried out in secret by her daughters.

“My daughter [Carol] Friday night told me she had to be someplace Saturday and she would like me to go with her,” Ms. Hodge Baker said. “[She] said, ‘I want you to dress warmly.’ She told me exactly what I should wear and everything.”

After about two hours of traveling through North Carolina from Cary to Salisbury, Ms. Hodge Baker’s Christmas present began to reveal itself.

“[Carol] started to drive up a little hill, and when we were going up, there were a couple of people, you know, just mingling around,” the octogenarian recalled. “And I saw someone, I said, ‘That looks like Sam,’ and my daughter said to me, ‘That is Sam.’ Sam is my youngest daughter’s husband. And [Carol] said, ‘Look, Diana’s standing behind him.’ And when I look, I saw my youngest daughter and I thought, ‘What are they doing here?’ I was shocked. I was surprised to see them there. I didn’t expect to.”

Ms. Baker Gregory then explained what was happening and asked her mother to fill out forms.

“I fell right in and started doing what she said, which is not like me,” Ms. Baker Hodge recalled.

Four out of the six sisters made it there in person, and the two others (Allyson and Carmen) had to be called “just in case,” according to Ms. Baker Hodge’s eldest daughter, Emma Baker.

Ivy Hodge Baker, 84, walks with her daughter after skydiving on Saturday in North Carolina. (Photo: Provided)
‘A deal done’

Over the course of the morning, Ms. Baker Gregory and her mother took a crash course on tandem skydiving and were on a plane by around 11 a.m. rising into the heavens.

“When it came my turn, I moved from where I was sitting and sat in the door of the plane with my feet hanging out,” Ms. Hodge Baker said. “I looked down, and, my God, I saw the distance to the ground, but I did not get scared. I asked the good Lord to take us down safely, and it was like a deal done.”

Toward the end of the drop, however, she wasn’t sure it would end well.

“It looked like we were not going to land in an area that I would have liked,” Ms. Hodge Baker said. “It seemed like we were going to go to some bushes; I was concerned about that.”

But even if she had landed in the bushes, she likely would have dusted herself off and simply checked another experience off her list.


“I have been to a lot of places and done a lot of things,” she said. “I’ve been swimming with the dolphins, and I rode a camel in Egypt. I just enjoy doing crazy things.”

There is still at least one thing on her bucket list, however.

“I would like to go to Australia,” she said. “I have never been there and there’s someplace I would like to go. I would like to see the reefs. … Hopefully, one day, I will be able to.”