Gresham woman plans documentary for late, blind, skydiving husband

Darian Slayton Fleming (KATU News photo)

A Gresham woman is trying to get a documentary made about her late husband, who made waves for being a blind skydiver.

"He was an adrenaline junkie," said Darian Slayton Fleming. "He was a thrill seeker."

Fleming and her husband, John, were married for about 10 years. They were best friends for nearly eight years before that. Both of them dealt with vision impairment. Darian has been legally blind since a childhood disease. John suffered from several degenerative eye conditions. They met at a gathering for the American Council for the Blind. They've overcome their disabilities in many ways.

"John was a blind skydiver," said Fleming. "He made over 1,938 skydives and over 1,200 of those were made after he lost his sight."

It's John's commitment to skydiving that Fleming wants to tell in a full-length documentary. He can't tell the story himself, as he died in 2016 after a battle with lung cancer.

"I miss him every day," says Fleming.

She misses her husband but she also misses the determination and grit that he embodied. He was born into a family of pilots and became a pilot himself. But worsening vision eventually robbed him of the chance to pilot planes. He refused to give up his love of skydiving.

"He had to give up flying, then he had to give up driving, and he was bound and determined not to give up skydiving," said Fleming.

Fleming and his skydiving buddies eventually developed ways to allow him to keep skydiving solo. Fleming used audible altimeters, and friends on the ground would use radios to help him land.

"They put their heads together, did some brainstorming, and figured out how he could skydive safely solo," said Fleming.

Fleming hopes a documentary would not only honor her late husband but provide inspiration to others as well.

"Part of the purpose is to reach people with any kind of disability to let them know your life isn't over," she said. "You can still have fun and enjoy life and be happy. John was a passionate advocate and it was really important to him to help people realize that their life wasn't over."

Fleming is looking for help in getting the documentary produced. For more information, including details on an upcoming fundraiser, you can visit a Facebook page, GoFundMe page, and website that have all been set up for the upcoming film.

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