Sportsetera: Throwing fate to the winds

Longtime Islander Ron Kasmuski was afraid of heights. — courtesy Ron Kasmuski

Times correspondent Jack Shea shares his thoughts on sports on-Island and further afield in this weekly look outside the white lines. This week he reports on the 70th birthday ritual of a former Islander.

Ronald J. Kasmouski turned 70 a few weeks back and jumped out of an airplane.

You remember “Kaz”. He was the Trustees of Reservations Ranger Supervisor who hauled more than a few sorry out of state Range Rovers off the beach on Chappy after drivers had resolutely refused to drop the air in their tires — then got stuck with the tide coming up.

No? How ‘bout the generally genial guy who made you a Turkey Gobbler, the house specialty at Darlene’s Kitchen (now Humphrey’s) on Winter Street in Edgartown? His rule: you want a Gobbler? Shut off the cell phone.

Ron is a man of firmly-held beliefs, one of which is that you must confront your fears. He is afraid of heights. I’ve known him, man and boy, my whole life and I’m telling you that stepping up on that high curbstone by Leslie’s Drugstore in Vineyard Haven gave him pause.

He’s manned up to life’s tight spots. He’s not afraid of them, but heights? Different story. So when the Facebook drums said he’d gone skydiving  near his Ft. Myers home for his 70th birthday, I thought it was a typo. They probably meant ‘sunbathing.”

A phone call later, my happy and relieved pal said that, yes, he had voluntarily left an airplane at 10,000 feet, albeit with a guide at his back. “It was on the bucket list and now it’s not. Scared? I was too terrified to be scared,” he said.

I watched the video at You can too. Or on Facebook. Go to “watch your tandem video,” “March, third week”, “Ronald 3/19.” My personal favorite moment is when he’s sitting in the plane looking like a guy whose lawyer just told him the prosecution witness IS going to testify. A few minutes later, he’s outside the plane, smiling. That’s his favorite moment.

“OK,” you are maybe saying, “that’s nice for him but it’s not such a big deal.” Here’s why it is. Four or five years back, several years after Roadway took his truck away (he had a back from hell but fought disability), Ron’s ticker went south. He had plumbing done and did the rehab. More than two years ago, he got Parkinson’s Disease, got the meds, does the workouts, and is fitter today than he’s been since all that started. Unfortunately for me, his golf game is also better than it was before he went all Code Red.

The point being that his skydive is an extension of his approach to life. Why life is fun for him. “You are in control of your own life. You have choices and you can choose not to be ruled by fear,” he says on the video before he jumps. My thought was, “Hey, you’re already playing with house money, buddy. You’re lucky to be upright. Why push it?”

Ron has never read Wayne Dyer. To him, self-help means moving your own self… an approach to life that’s not always apparent to others. I ran into Megan Farrell of Oak Bluffs a couple weekends ago and asked: “What do you think Ron did on his 70th birthday?” Without hesitation, she said, “I bet he went skydiving.” I got slack-jawed. “Of course he went skydiving. What else would he do on his 70th?” she said.

I just hope it isn’t infectious. I’m afraid of heights.