STEPHENS CITY — Caroline Hastreiter’s life has been filled with learning, family, friends, faith, a career and giving her time to others. She has no intention of slowing down in her golden years. In fact, she’s got a list of places she wants to see and things she wants to do, starting with kayaking, zip lining and skydiving.
For her 78th birthday in November, Hastreiter went to D.C. Skydiving Center in Warrenton, where she booked an early jump on what turned out to be a warm, sunny day.
Initially, she thought, “Am I really doing this? Why am I doing this? But there was no fear at all. It was pure joy.”
D.C. Skydiving Center only offers tandem skydiving, meaning Hastreiter was harnessed to a certified instructor, and they jumped together. “His name was Angelo, so I had an angel with me,” she said, smiling.
“I can’t say I love flying, though it doesn’t bother me.” As for being in or jumping out of a plane, she said, “I always think, ‘If this is my time, then this is my time.’”
Hastreiter described her seven minutes falling to Earth.
“The view was so different than riding down the highway. On high everything is colorful — many shades of green, more shades of [autumn] yellow than red except by conscious plantings around homes,” she said, noting there were many geometric shapes, cultivated fields lined by trees, little ribbons of roads and a big ribbon of the Potomac River.
“There is so much to see in every directions that I never looked up to see the parachute,” she said.
“The landing came up quickly, and I was trying hard to keep my feet up like I was told,” Hastreiter said. “It was very abrupt, but not painful. One thing I failed to notice is whether the runway was grass or concrete. Maybe I was more excited than I thought.”
Prior to her skydiving experience, Hastreiter took a zipline canopy tour in the Raymond R. “Andy” Guest Jr. Shenandoah River State Park. Wearing a harness and attached to a steel cable, she reached up to 40 miles per hour as much as 90 feet above the forest floor.
She also went kayaking along the Shenandoah River.
Next on her bucket list: Hastreiter has made an April reservation to drive a Lamborghini around a track.
Hastreiter also wants to see the Canadian Rockies, the Grand Canyon and other iconic North American destinations.
“I think my bucket list is fairly modest. I’ve done things that required a little bit of physical fitness, because that’s all I have — a little bit,” she said with a laugh.
Hastreiter was born and raised in Georgia. While in college she met her future husband, who was from Virginia. Now a widow with three grown children, Hastreiter remains in Stephens City, where she has lived for 40 years.
She earned her bachelor’s degree in history and political science from Agnes Scott College in 1961. She attended Shenandoah University in the 1970s and earned a degree in respiratory therapy.
Hastreiter was the chief executive officer of Blue Ridge Hospice for 12 of the 18 years she worked for the organization. After Blue Ridge Hospice, Hastreiter worked for Winchester’s Caretakers After-school Program, which became the Boys & Girls Club of Northern Shenandoah Valley.
She has been deeply involved with her church, Sherando Presbyterian Church, for decades. In January, she will attain the highest lay position possible: clerk.
Hastreiter describes herself as curious and adventuresome.
She drove to South Carolina in August to watch the rare total solar eclipse from a prime vantage point. She went to the presidential inauguration in January simply to see what it looked like.
“My mother was one of the few women at the time to have a college degree. She always told us that education is not limited to 13 or 17 years. Learning goes on forever,” said Hastreiter.
She has also learned that if one doesn’t adapt to change, “you’re not going to have a good life.” She also said facing challenges head on offers perspective. “If I did this, whatever ‘this’ is, I can survive anything.”
She added, “I’m not the least bit interested in dust bunnies and vacuum cleaners.”
Hastreiter said she is about to embark on her “riskiest” endeavor yet. Online dating.