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This time, I cannot manage to stay away from bad news, and I convinced myself that it even makes sense to pick up the BSBD story for a very simple reason. Hal Spence was such a positive participant in the sport and has brought so much joy and fun to others and to himself that there is no reason to ignore the fact that he recently died in a skydiving accident.
He turned into the formation-skydiving competitor whom I know relatively late. However, he has been "inventory" at Skydive DeLand, so I have known him for much longer. He was working with AFF students and was always available for the beginners in the sport, with information and to make a skydive with them.
You never had to twist his arm to jump with the locals on weekends or at any time. He ran his own small-business law firm in New Smyrna Beach and could make himself available if he wanted to.
Then he decided to take on 4- and 8-way competition more intensively, and his name made the Sun Path Products NSL News for the first time when he competed with Cold Turkey (Fraser Feltner, Renee Power, Jim Prochaska and Bill Schmitz on camera) in March 2008. That's when we began to share more time together.
I was impressed by his great efforts to master the AAA Class dive pool in 4-way, as he was not really the youngest 4-way "beginner" in 2008.
There were old habits to break, body positions to be changed, team dynamics to be learned and mastered, and he was not shy of taking it all on and becoming a 4-way expert.
He was the best in taking in any new information, storing it and forwarding it to others who might be able to benefit from it. He never asked for money, coaching fees etc. and always paid his own dues without complaining when he had to. He loved all aspects of the sport and shared it with others as much as possible. He was also ready to provide legal advice related to skydiving, and many people benefited from it, personally and professionally.
Yes, he also loved to talk, and man, did he have stories to tell. His life was very exciting, adventurous and entertaining even before he started jumping, and I loved to listen to his stories.
We had plenty of time, as he became addicted to 4-way almost as much as I have been.
We made the round-trip between DeLand and SkyVenture/ iFLY Orlando for Florida Skydiving League Tunnel Kickers, training and coaching so many times together over the years that I would not be able to count them. But I had plenty of time to listen to his stories and thoughts.
In fact, I was so fortunate to have him on this weekly trip, as he had also un unlimited amount of energy.
It would sometimes take me three hours to make the 50-minute drive after an indoor event in Orlando and a few beers afterward with other participants and friends.
And Hal would never miss a social gathering over a beer - whether it was at beer-thirty in the afternoon or at 2 a.m. after a tunnel night.
Not Hal - he would turn on his favorite music of the '60s and 70s and deliver me safely to my doorstep.
Out of the probably hundreds of times back and forth between DeLand and Orlando I had to get behind the wheel only maybe a handful of times.
It was story time and great conversation on the way to Orlando and sleeping on the way back at night. Thanks for that, Hal.
All he wanted in return were a few more challenging 4-way flying sessions, and maybe a beer or two after the tunnel night.
Hal Spence will be dearly missed by the Florida indoor and outdoor 4-way community and by Skydive DeLand - and by an unlimited number of other skydivers worldwide. Be careful out there ... Blues Skies, Black Death