by Darian Slayton Fleming
Who said the words “skydiving” and “blind” couldn’t be uttered in the same sentence? The late John Fleming, blind skydiver and advocate for the rights of people who are blind, skydived solo safely more than 1,200 times after losing his sight. He is fast becoming a legend in the American Council of the Blind and in the skydiving communities.
How did he earn this status? John jumped out of perfectly good airplanes just for fun. While in the Air Force, he made his first jump at Delta Sport Jumpers in Higginsville, Mo. on a dare. The static line jump from 3,000 feet out of a Cessna 172 cost him a whopping $15 (less than the cost of a regular ride to altitude at most drop zones today). One of the first things I learned about John was that you didn’t dare him to do something unless you wanted him to do it. John often said his feet were barely on the ground after that first jump before he knew he was going to do that again. And he did, over 1,938 times.
When he joined ACB, John turned his passion for skydiving into two fund-raising efforts known as “Blue Skies for Future Eyes” for the ACB. The two events raised nearly $9,000 each. Recalling these events in the skydiving magazine “The Parachutist,” Mike Muscat, one of the skydivers who talked John down by radio, said, “‘Blind John’ was grinning from ear to ear pretty much the entire day. He had a right to be happy. He made this whole thing happen. He dreamed it and was living the dream. You see, what John Fleming lacks in sight he makes up for in vision.”
John was an active force in ACB. He served several terms as president of the Visually Impaired Veterans of America (VIVA) and served on ACB’s constitution and bylaws and credentials committees. One year while president of VIVA, John informed Chris Gray, ACB president, that there was no flag in the assembly hall. Since then, this oversight has not been repeated.
John passed away in June 2016 after a second battle with lung cancer. I was privileged to be John’s wife. We met in the Oregon delegation at an ACB national convention. We dared to become friends, and in 2006 we became husband and wife. I’m not sayin’ which one of us was the most daring on that account. I do know that I dared him to announce our betrothal when he spoke before the 2005 ACB general assembly in Las Vegas, the year and place where we became engaged. He took me up on that dare, saying that my answer was, “Well, I won’t marry you in free-fall, but I will take the plunge with you.”
John spoke to groups about how life isn’t over after sight loss. He said that you can do just about anything with some creative brainstorming, determination, and a little help from your friends. Now I am working with a production team, Flying Blind Productions, LLC, to make a full-length documentary about John’s life. ACB has agreed to serve as the fiscal sponsor for our project, and we need your help to make this dream a reality. Do you want to see John’s story on the big screen? Here are some ways you can get involved:
- Did you know John Fleming? Please contact me and we will arrange to interview you.
- Become a sponsor. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call (503) 522-3272 to learn about the many sponsorship benefits.
- Like us on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/blindjohnmovie/.
- Donate at acb.org. Choose Honorary Donation, be sure to specify “John Fleming movie” and include your contact information. We’ll be in touch about your donation “producer perks.”
Invite us to speak to your organizations to share John’s inspiring story and show clips from the project. Dare to take a chance on our project. Help us bring John’s story to the big screen for all to enjoy.