Drop Zone Hawaii jumpers released Greg Hunter's ashes yesterday above Mokuleia.

Friends jump
for fallen sky diver

Colleagues honor Greg Hunter's
zest for life by releasing flowers
over Dillingham Airfield

By Mary Vorsino

Greg Hunter loved his job because he loved adventure. And he loved adventure because he loved a challenge.

"He always wanted to learn anything he could about anything," said his younger brother, Scott Hunter of Idaho, at a memorial service yesterday for the 44-year-old tandem sky diving instructor.

"He was about love and life and living."

Greg Hunter died Dec. 22 when his parachute failed to deploy during a tandem jump. His tandem partner, Margaret Thomas, 18, of Papillion, Neb., also died in the accident. The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating the accident.

About 25 friends and colleagues gathered at Drop Zone Hawaii, the sky diving business where Hunter worked for almost a year.

They remembered Hunter with warm words, good food and a memorial jump.

A memorial service for sky diving instructor Greg Hunter was held yesterday at the Drop Zone Hawaii office at Dillingham Airfield.

Flowers were dropped from a Drop Zone Hawaii airplane over Dillingham Airfield in Mokuleia in his memory, and his sky-diving colleagues formed a lei in the sky with their bodies to say "aloha" and "We love you" to a great friend and esteemed co-worker.

At the same ceremony, Hunter's ashes were scattered over the airfield and the neighboring shore to commemorate his greatest loves -- sky diving and sailing.

Sky divers, many of whom had worked closely with Hunter, gathered quietly and Hunter's friends held back tears or took each other's hands for strength as Drop Zone Hawaii owner Ken Anderson said a prayer in celebration of Hunter's life.

"He had such a love for life," Anderson said. "He cared about everyone but himself."

Inside the office, a display case covered with a flag served as a memorial to Hunter, while in the background "Aloha Oe" played softly.

On the table lay photos of the sky diver -- many of them taken while on the job, but some from his childhood -- that showed the life progression of a man who "loved adventure" and "was fascinated by stuff," said his brother.

Drop Zone Hawaii owner Ken Anderson spoke about Greg Hunter during yesterday's service. Some of the crowd and the airfield were reflected in the mirrored windows behind him.

Before the service began, Ken Anderson's wife Cynthia gave Scott Hunter a lei, kissed him and held him tightly.

"I loved him," she told Hunter as she hugged him and held back tears. "We're going to miss him."

Hunter last spoke to his brother the day before he died.

The two, who had last seen each other in April, had tentatively planned a skiing trip in that final phone call. Two days later, his father called Hunter to tell him his brother was dead.

"It took time" to realize what had happened, Scott Hunter said, adding that because he sounds like Greg, he has started to talk to himself to hear his brother's voice.

It was Scott Hunter who, more than 20 years ago, first introduced his older brother to sky diving.

After that first dive, his brother "was hooked."

"It made a huge imprint on him. You could just see it in his eyes," Hunter said.

But the two were off on adventures long before that. In grade school, they jumped off the roof of their house for kicks and landed in snow. Later, the two skied off low cliffs into snowbanks. As young adults, the brothers were always looking for new challenges, building gliders, boats and submarines.

One thing was always the same, though: "I was always trying to keep up," Hunter said.

At the service, Hunter read a letter written by his mother for Greg. He stopped once to compose himself and suppress tears, then was encouraged by listeners to continue.

The letter detailed the life of an adventure-seeker, and devoted son and brother, who gave "big bear hugs" and encouraged others, when they bore rocks of sorrow, to "go into the woods" and leave them.

"I'm trying not to cry, but my heart is very sad," Hunter's mother Mae wrote in the letter. "I hope I can unload my rocks soon."

Besides his brother Scott and mother Mae, Greg Hunter is survived by his father Bob Sr., older brother Bob Jr. and sister Nan.

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