By Linda Scherer
WINSTED, MN When considering fun ways to spend a Sunday afternoon in June, neither Fr. Tony Hesse nor Craig Remer would have written skydiving on their lists. Both are a little apprehensive when it comes to the idea of free falling from a plane.
However, with a little motivation, like raising funds for Holy Trinity (HT) School, they overlooked their fears arriving at Westside Skydivers in Winsted June 24 ready to take a leap for faith.
Both Hesse and Remer were chosen to make the jump by live auction bidding at the 28th annual HT Spring Fling Dinner Auction April 21. The men are well-known to HT. Hesse has been a priest at the Church and School for three years, and Remer is a 1984 HT graduate and chairman of the education committee.
The Sunday afternoon skydiving event brought more than 200 people of all ages out to Winsted Airport to wish the pair well before their jump; then most stayed to watch.
Westside Skydivers owner Joe Johnson said of the crowd, “What a view from the air with all of the spectators and cars. They were all the way down the airport road to Winstock. It was phenomenal. What a showing of support for Father.”
With a rosary in his pocket and a bag of Bubble Wrap to protect him from serious injury, Hesse arrived in his purple and white-striped coveralls (HT colors), ready to accept his fate.
“I have been on a plane before, but I never considered jumping out of one before,” Hesse said. “Even going to Valleyfair a couple of weeks ago, I rode on the Ferris wheel and I could not keep a sentence going.”
But Hesse said he had a good night’s sleep and was more concerned, at that moment, about saying good-bye to all of the HT parishioners who were planning to attend his going away party following the jump. Hesse’s last day at HT will be July 2.
Remer said he also slept all right the night before, with the help of a couple of beverages.
“I have had a lot of time to think about it (skydiving) and I am actually thinking it will be a good time,” Remer said before getting ready to jump, “but I will tell you, this definitely wasn’t on my bucket list.”
Cameras were flashing everywhere as Hesse, Remer, and others suited up for the jump.
A 1965 Holy Trinity graduate, Fran Otto, was jumping because he purchased a skydiving auction item the evening of the dinner auction. This was the second jump for Otto, who had purchased the skydiving jump the previous year and enjoyed it so much he was back to try it again.
Also jumping with the group was Shawn Scherping, a HT parishioner, who had jumped a few times before and wanted to make the jump to support Hesse.
Scherping made his first jump soon after Westside Skydivers opened in Winsted, because he “likes the rush.”
The jump was made at 13,000 feet. All four jumpers landed safely.
After Hesse landed, one of the first things he did was to check his striped coveralls for grass stains, and there were plenty. But Hesse enjoyed the moment, with everyone cheering for him. Children ran out to greet him.
Would he jump again?
“Probably, if I could go tandem,” Hesse said. “I didn’t pay attention to the altimeter, which told me when I was to open the chute. All of a sudden it was, ‘there goes the parachute.’”
Remer, too, seemed to have enjoyed the experience.
Would he jump again?
“Absolutely. It was great,” Remer said. “The best part was when I pulled the chute.”
“Jumping out got me a little bit,” Remer said. “I knew there was no turning back. I could feel the weight of the guy behind me and then, you are gone and there is nothing to stop you.”
The skydiving competition and the added excitement of having Hesse skydive was the perfect ending to the 28th annual HT Spring Fling Dinner Auction, which was the most successful auction todate. This year’s auction theme was inspired by the world of Dr. Seuss. The auctioneer was Kathy Krone.
“We raised over $55,000 ($6,000 of which Fr. Tony raised with his commitment to jump) for HT School, as well as an additional $14,250 to help fulfill our need for additional technology in our classrooms,” HT Development Director Angie Hertel said.
One of the new dinner auction items this year was the skydiving competition, which came after a suggestion from Roxanne Felder, a HT parent and Spring Fling committee member. The idea was a jump contest, which was presented to the Westside Skydivers owner by Tom Ollig, HT parishioner and member of the Spring Fling Committee.
Three HT graduates were chosen for the contest: 1988 HT graduate Rose Heimerl, 1989 HT graduate Jeff Campbell, or Remer could be voted on by sending in a donation (vote) before the auction, or during the auction, until the live auction began.
Hesse was initially part of the contest, but his name was taken out because of his fear of heights.
The cash donations were tallied and the person with the most donations was Remer.
More than $1,700 was raised through this contest
“The highlight of the dinner auction this year,” Hertel said, “was certainly Fr. Tony getting up on stage and saying that if we could raise $5,000 more for HT he, too, would jump with Westside Skydivers. Especially since I knew his true fear of heights, by the look on his face when we had asked him if he would be willing to be one of the three contestants.”
“But in the spur of the moment at the auction something took him over and he jumped on stage and said he would jump too if we could raise $5,000 more for HT school,” Hertel said. “It took about 30 seconds and we had raised more than $5,000. Someone in the audience mentioned afterwards that Fr. Tony could have said $10,000, and we would have reached the goal.”