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Skydiving veteran Kim Knor jumping out over Niagara County

Niagara Gazette - 6/15/2024

Jun. 14—At the end of WWII, Kim Emmons Knor's uncle brought home a parachute from his time in the Navy. The memento was damaged during his training in Corpus Christi, Texas, when he had to jump out of a burning plane.

"I heard so many stories about jumping out of an airplane," Kim said. "I thought, 'Maybe I'll have to join the military since it was the only parachuting I know about.' "

Now 85 years old, the International Skydiving Hall of Fame member is bringing her quest for 1,000 dives to Niagara County this weekend, flying with Skydive the Falls out of Youngstown. So far, she has made 671, with two to three jumps planned while in Niagara County.

Kim's first dive was back in 1959 when she was 20 and living in Chicago. Skydiving was becoming a more fun activity in the U.S. as enthusiasts formed their own clubs. Those included men going into military reserves and Korean War veterans.

"I wanted to do it since I was six," she said. "When I did it, I was like, 'Finally, I get to fly like a bird.' "

She started competitive skydiving in 1960 when she had to be part of men's teams. It was not until 1962 that a U.S. women's team got put together for the world championships in Europe that year. The four women on it, Kim included, won the gold medal.

During that trip, she met Milan Knor, a fellow skydiver from Belgrade, Yugoslavia, who used this championship as his attempt to defect to the West. He would end up being her husband in 1966.

Milan worked for the Pioneer Parachute Company while Kim stopped jumping as she worked as an optometrist and they raised their two children. On the day their first child was born, he had a bad accident while working on products, one that would require 11 surgeries over three years to save his life.

"There was no more jumping after that," Kim said. He would later die from an aneurysm in 1997, at 57 years old.

In 2003, Kim started going to reunions with other skydiving pioneers from the 1950s and '60s, her past teammates asking her why not try jumping again. As she tried making one jump again, it became addictive.

"It's not uncommon that people have breaks in their lives, then come back to the sport," Kim said, who had since retired. Her goal of making 1,000 jumps is tame since tandem skydiving instructors can have up to 10,000 jumps.

"At that time, the highest award you could get was a gold ring (for 1,000 jumps)," Kim said. "I figured I might as well finish."

These jumps are happening all across the United States, with Kim driving a motorhome to each destination. Her trip to Niagara County was planned six months ago. Jenn Jones, one of the Skydive the Falls instructors, will be turning 62 and will retire soon, so she wanted Kim to come out for her final jump.

The standard skydiving height is 13,500 feet, with the plane ascending upward in a huge circle. The dive will be in tandem with another diver, though she does not know yet how many other people will go with her.

"My favorite thing is being under the canopy when it opens," Kim said, who does not want other people near her when the parachute opens. "I can steer, float around, and enjoy the quiet and scenery."

Kim encourages anyone considering skydiving to try it at least once to see how they like it. Most people think they fall like they are on a roller coaster, but the sensation of not feeling like falling surprises them.

After diving so many times over most of her life, the experience never gets old. Even three of Kim's grandchildren have taken to this hobby.

"It's in your DNA or it isn't," Kim said.

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(c)2024 the Niagara Gazette (Niagara Falls, N.Y.)

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