Deanna Kent Skydancer, October 25, 1956 - April 20, 1997
FROM THE AUTHOR:
20 June 1997,
the eve of summer solstice,
two months from the day Deanna Olea Kent entered a new realm with her soaring spirit,
a day which dawned with bright blue skies,
decorated with beautiful puffy clouds, an evening where the sun set, both large and gracefully, and simultaneously,
the moon was rising on the opposite horizon in the same way . .
On this day, from all over the world, two hundred and fifty friends and family gathered in Palm Coast Florida. For her family from Mexico, for the friends who arrived from all over North America, the Orient, South America, Europe, for friends from their early years in Mexico, Elsinore and Perris, for those from her more recent time in Florida - - - for those who danced with her in the joy of her life and cradled her in the challenges of her confusing illness, this day was indeed a celebration of life!
In the indoor service, to which bountiful bouquets of flowers had arrived from all over the world, Norman Kent presented a photographic essay of their love and lives together, with an emotional film tribute which closed the formal part of the evening. While there, friends and family released commemorative balloons at moon rise, entered their thoughts and recollections into a scrapbook of the event, co-signed a David Rickerby original oil on canvas, and enjoyed a gallery style pictorial history display. All this complimented a beautiful and poignant family skydive and distribution of Skydancer’s ashes, a picnic and a beach bonfire from sunset to sunrise.
At seven o’clock in the evening, as the some two hundred and fifty friends gathered at the beach, the Skyvan from Skydive Deland was preparing for takeoff, with a two pass load. On the first pass, Mike Michigan, surrounded by friends in a shining star of love and support, made a partnerless tribute to his partner in freestyle discovery and presentation by pulling out of the dive at 6,000 feet, leaving a missing man formation to continue to 3,500 feet. Everyone safely and expertly swooped the beach, even though most of the spectators forgot to leave a clear landing area because of their excitement. The dive included Mike Michigan, Jerry Bird, Guy Manos, Carl Daugherty, Billy Weber, Lyle Presse, Craig Fronck, Jim Captain, Mary Pat Avery, Bambi Knight, Jeff Jones, Mike Johnston and Keith Larrett flew cameras.
The second pass was the family skydive, permission granted by the FAA only two days prior, thanks to the efforts of Bill Booth, the creator of tandem skydiving. Deanna’s son Ramsey had decided he wanted to fly with his mother - because he had just reached his fifteenth birthday, he had not been able to do so in her lifetime. With the exemption allowing Ramsey to make a tandem skydive, cinematographers Gus Wing and Joe Jennings flew in freefall with 35mm film cameras, digital video cams, and still cameras. Chuck Karcher provided medium format photography on the skydive where, exiting the aircraft at 14,000 feet, the camera flyers surrounded Skydancer’s fifteen year old son Ramsey, who flew in tandem with Mark Procos. On Ramseys arm - in a pouch contributed by Shelly Jones - Skydancer’s ashes.
The love her life, Norman Kent, joined his son in freefall, and grasping his arm, together they released Deanna’s ashes into the skies above the beach upon which she lived, loved, danced and died.
From the ground, the crowd exclaimed in awe as the ashes released for seemingly endless seconds into a cloud of beauty which actually sparked! and continued to float even as the tandem pair landed excellently on the small beach a few minutes later.
In attendance at the event were all of Deanna’s family and some of Norman’s. The family was overwhelmed and most appreciative of the outpouring of love and respect from this community for their daughter, their sister. In the film presented by Norman Kent, we shared in the vision of Deanna’s life and love . . . with images from their hearts. We share in her legacy of love and beauty.
Thanks to all the friends and family who helped prepare for the Celebration of Deanna Olea Kent’s life; intense appreciation is extended to all who attended in presence and spirituality.
And in Deanna’s words, "everybody, please take care of each other..I love you all."
On April 20, 1997, with the sun setting and the full moon rising over the beach she so enjoyed, Skydancer Deanna Kent, at rest on her deck and surrounded by love and family, died at 7:50 p.m. Deanna was accompanied in this moment by the presence and embrace of her husband Norman, son Ramsey and friends Mike ‘Michigan’ Sandberg and Mag Huybreghs.
One of six children, born and raised in Mexico, and the daughter of a pilot, Deanna Olea Kent began her jumping career at fifteen. An innocent and pure soul, as a little girl, Deanna was always attracted to dancing. Exposed to flight as the daughter of a pilot, the child was also captivated by the skies. She made her first jump on January 27, 1972 and continued her new found passion for jumping, becoming the most experienced jumper in Mexico.
A senior skydiver to her husband Norman, the independent, energetic, fiery Deanna was a woman of many dimensions. Just 40 years of age at the time of her death, pretty little Deanna, who stood only 5’3" in height and was as light as 100 pounds, had over 5,000 jumps in her 25 years of skydiving, including those early in her career when in 1974 she earned the honor of serving as a Lieutenant in the Mexican Air Force.
Making exhibition jumps for and at the request of President Echeverria, at just 17, Deanna was a pioneering young woman in demonstration jumping and sport parachuting. A member of the 64 and 100 women largest formation world record jumps, she is known worldwide for her stunt work in feature films and television programs such as Terminal Velocity, National Geographic, Sports Illustrated, Bay Watch, Japanese television shows, commercials and vignettes and countless other appearances in print and broadcast media.
Seeking new horizons for their dreams, the Kents moved from Mexico to Southern California in 1976, jumping at Elsinore and Perris. A family was an integral part of their dreams and their son Ramsey, a gift borne of their commitment to each other, arrived in 1982. While living in California, filmed and produced by Norman Kent, together with her body flight partner Mike Michigan, Deanna stunned the world with her explosive and passionate introduction of the three dimensional flight of Skydancing. It is as "the mother of freestyle" that Deanna is best known in the skydiving community.
In the early eighties, she experimented with skydance as a new form of self expression representative of love and purity as she felt it. After exploring this dancing in the sky, Deanna approached Norman with what she was doing. Critical and disbelieving about the visual potential of the discipline she was pioneering, he thought it would be impossible to film and recommended that she "just forget about it!" But, she continued to explore and with her impassioned belief in the vision of what she was discovering, finally convinced her husband. Norman Kent recalls, "by not listening to me, Deanna opened my eyes to the knowledge that I needed to become a better flyer, to become more three dimensional, and to grow in order to film this." Shortly after this time, Deanna met Mike Michigan, who had been experimenting similarly for a while. Together, the two Kents and Mike Michigan traveled to Acapulco for their first filming camp. In "Freefall" this historical premiere footage of skydancing was released not to the skydiving community, but to the Japanese laser disc market; by Pioneer Laser Disc Corporation. This preview preceded the premiere of the discipline in Norman Kent’s "From Wings Came Flight" by a whole year. When first viewed by the jumping public as it is still, Deanna’s skydancing was considered to be a classic composition of art, athleticism, body flight and dance. The unique imagery of the partnership of Norman and Deanna Kent can be seen in the FWCF segment entitled "Picture Me": a partnership with passionate art, dance and gymnastics, in freefall. The original freestyle team, it has taken a generation of jumpers, if not two, for people to appreciate and see just how ahead of their time they were.
Embraced by the skydiving community, Deanna’s Skydancing became known as Freestyle, revealing whole new horizons for discovery, body flight and expression without limitation. Freestyle erupted! And, the main contribution through its creation was that newly opened door to the "no limits" scenario! From there... Freestyle, Skysurfing, Freeflying and their competitions... a new attitude was born, and the rest is history.
Mike Michigan, about his dear friend, "I've known Norman longer than I knew Deanna, but I came to know them as a team in their lives together. Deanna always had time for people. Anyone that wanted to see her, she made time for. In the end, it took a terrific toll, but she always made the effort. Now that I think about it, I can't remember a time that she wasn't willing to talk to anyone who wanted to talk to her. On all the film projects that I've worked with him, there wasn't one day that passed that Norman wasn't on the phone to her at least three times, talking to her about the project, getting her opinion, receiving her support. She was definitely the woman behind the man.
I give Deanna the credit for getting Freestyle out to the world. Norman didn't see the art in Freestyle at first and it was Deanna who persuaded him to give it a chance.
Deanna should be remembered for her love, of Norman, people, and especially, her love of flight. Human flight, jet flight, windtunnel flight - whatever got the human body into the air, she loved to be there.
Though she never was a competitor in Freestyle it had her support from the beginning. At the first two competitions, Norman, Deanna and myself were the judges. I would have the most critical score, Norman would be in the middle and Deanna would be giving out 10's like they were going out of style! Deanna was so proud of anyone who tried!" In his reflection, Mike Michigan gives Skydancer, a perfect 10.
The Kent family moved to Palm Coast, Florida after fifteen years of residence in California. Over the passage of time, Deanna was a student of dance, aerobics, Tai Chi and Yoga and she recently achieved herself as a Reiki Master. A master of intensity and energy, when young Ramsey started with his hobby of motorcross in Florida, Deanna could be found on her own bike right along beside him. "When in doubt, GAS IT!" was the only instruction the Kent men gave to Deanna, not realizing that she would be kicking up the dirt like the best of them, AT FULL THROTTLE most of the time! Pure energy, Deanna Kent!
Her life and messages were intense, with the presence of a spirituality which affected all who knew her. Even in the acceptance of her illness and preparation for death, Deanna Kent exhibited a unique and graceful strength and depth.
In the fall of 1996, the Kents discovered that she suffered from an extremely rare disease. Often long dormant, but once manifested with pulmonary involvement, a rapidly progressing fatal illness, CREST Syndrome (Calcinosis, Raynaud’s phenomenon, Esophageal dysfunction, Sclerodactyly, Telangiectasia), is a chronic disease of unknown origin. The advanced syndrome is characterized by debilitating symptoms representative of the conditions for which it is named. In October, after a confrontation with these symptoms which found Deanna in a coma, and on heart and lung life support, the most photographed woman in skydiving challenged the very senses of the doctors who cared for her, and returned for a few months to share her vibrancy with her family and friends, vowing that she "will fly again".
Deanna’s energy, spirituality and presence will be seen, felt and celebrated in the upcoming film release by her husband of twenty-two years, Norman Kent. The man who has been present for the skydiving above two Olympic and one Paralympic Opening Ceremonies as well as a contributor as an aerial cinematographer to films such as Eraser, Drop Zone, Terminal Velocity, Navy Seals, Star Trek and others, producer, editor and aerial cinematographer of world reputation, Kent attributes his inspiration to the presence and the love of Deanna in his life. Willing to Fly is his upcoming self-produced film which will portray the unlimited possibilities of human flight through love.
"I learned because of her; she was about being, not about convincing you what she was; she completed me." Norman Kent
[There were many times when physically, we wouldn’t have made it through experiences were it not for Deanna’s presence, energy and spirituality; without her, we would have been defeated. She instilled a lot of hope and courage in everyone who knew her, not only in the air, but on the ground and in the heart too. Carl Algee
[She's the finest example of the kind of woman I aspire to be - strong yet gentle; dynamic yet graceful. All the finest qualities wrapped up into one single powerhouse named Deanna. She was all about love, and she told me that "love is the most important thing there is in this world, we should all remember that!" Mary Pat Avery
[I am so happy to have known her, to have been a part of what was going on, and that includes Norman too, because they both made me a part of their world. I admired her perseverance, her energy, her creativity . . . everything she had going! She is a grand inspiration for me! Tina McCoy
[Deanna was like a sister to me. And my sister wasn't about saying things, she was about living things; she was a wonderful thing to behold and she is dancing now, where ever she is, the original Skydancer! Gus Wing
Will Fly Again
"We are each of us angels with only one wing
and we can fly only by embracing each other!"
-Luciano de Crescenzo
During my battle between life and death
I closed my eyes and saw rainbows, clouds and stars,
with all my family, friends and their Love around.
That brought me back earthbound,
to Thank You all from the bottom of my heart.
-Deanna Kent, December 1996
Tags: Skydiving Sport