George H.W. Bush 'Living Life to Fullest,' Skydives to Celebrate 90th Birthday

( [email protected] ) Jun 12, 2014 04:55 PM EDT
90 Year Old President Skydives
Former president George H.W. Bush and Mike Elliott, a retired member of the Army's Golden Knights parachute team, float to the ground during a tandem parachute jump on June 12 in Kennebunkport, Maine. Bush made the jump, his eighth, to celebrate his 90th birthday. (AP)

Two years ago, George H.W. Bush made a promise: when he reached his 90th birthday, the former president would commemorate the occasion by skydiving.

Today marks the end of his ninth decade, and the elder Bush kept his word, parachuting down near his home in Kennebunkport, Maine around 11:15 a.m. along with ex-military jumper Mike Elliot.

"It's a wonderful day in Maine - in fact, nice enough for a parachute jump," he tweeted earlier today.

This is the eighth time the elder Bush has made the jump. The first was in 1944, when the Japanese shot down his fighter plane over the Pacific during World War II, USA Today reports. He also jumped for birthdays 80 and 85.

Former president and son George W. Bush was among those waiting on the ground to greet his father, along with granddaughter Jenna Hager Bush, who first reported the planned jump as part of a Father's Day package on NBC's Today show.

Bush's birthday will conclude with a dinner attended by 200 friends and family and a performance by Irish tenor Ronan Tynan.

Nearly 25 years after his inauguration, the elder Bush has garnered a 58% approval rating from Americans, compared with 47% in 1992. His poll numbers jumped to near 70% during the early days of his son George W. Bush's presidency, CNN reports.

"History is sorting" through Bush's presidency now, and he is receiving more credit than while he was in office, said former Sen. Alan Simpson of Wyoming, who has known Bush since the 1960's.

However, Ron Kaufman, a longtime friend and former Bush White House official, says the former president "doesn't want people "puffing him up."

"Bush will leave it to history to judge his legacy," said Kaufman.

In the meantime, Bush "really enjoys life to the fullest," and is "less worried about death ... more enjoying his life as it is," Kaufman stated.

That includes shaving his head to show solidarity with the son of a member of his Secret Service detail who has cancer, and traveling to Duke University to honor Coach Mike Krzyzewski for his work supporting cancer research.

As for how the nation views him today, Simpson said Bush "is quite touched" by an outpouring of love and affection he receives from people across the nation.

"Wherever he goes, people love him," Kaufman said.

Bush is also the subject of a new CNN documentary - 41 on 41 - that debuts Sunday at 9 p.m. ET.