Intrepid Sam to relive his youth by skydiving in memory of beloved wife
A retired primary school teacher with a prosthetic limb is to plunge 10,000ft in a charity skydive for the Alzheimer's Society in order to fulfil a promise he made to his dying wife.
Sam Hazlett (79), who lost Evelyn (81) in May following a 10-year struggle with dementia, is about to relive an old passion and honour the pledge he made to his wife.
"I'm not worried about it at all, I can't wait. I've never had problems with height," he told the Belfast Telegraph.
"I'd love to do it alone but it's too risky, it would only take one gust of wind and I'd be in trouble."
Evelyn died within a year of moving into Park Manor Nursing Home in Dunmurry shortly after losing her mobility.
"She was beginning to forget where she had set things down at the beginning but none of us were worried," he explained.
"It was her doctor who was concerned and sent her for a scan and some tests.
"The results showed that early dementia had set in and it just got progressively worse, but she kept her personality right up until after Christmas.
"She recognised everyone and was always cracking jokes. It was only after Easter that she really went downhill."
The couple, who used to run an antiques business in Hillsborough, also owned a guesthouse in Belfast for nearly 30 years after Sam retired from teaching in 1985.
"We didn't really retire until I had to close the guesthouse down, we had to cater for guests and it just became too dangerous with Evelyn's illness," he said.
Before her health began to deteriorate Evelyn made her husband of 51 years make her a promise and Sam is determined to fulfil it.
"She just looked at me and said: 'Will you do something for the Alzheimer's Society?' I said yes, I promised that I would," he explained.
"It's extremely important that I keep my word to Evelyn - it's such a worthwhile cause and one that she really appreciated."
Sam, who suffers from type 2 diabetes, was at a loss over how to raise the money as he has contended with his own health battles since having his right leg amputated in 2004.
"I had to have my lower leg removed from just below the knee and I have Charcot foot in my left leg," he said.
"I knew I couldn't run and I'm not really allowed to walk, so a skydive just makes sense.
"I want to raise as much money as possible for the charity because they really were so good with Evelyn."
The former TA soldier completed numerous skydives at RAF Abingdon, Oxfordshire, in his youth, but 60 years have passed since his last jump.
"I did this a long time ago - I saw a notice on the board and I was one of the first to sign up and I must have done 20 jumps," he said.
"The training on the ground was harder than the jump and at that age you feel immortal, it was very enjoyable.
"This is a tandem jump so I don't need to do very much. The instructor has to do all the work and all I have to do is make sure I bend my knees before landing."
Sam will be on the Lisburn Road in the run-up to next Sunday's jump in an effort to encourage people to make a donation via his Sam's Jump For Alzheimer's JustGiving page.
The jump will take place on November 5 at Skydive Wild Geese in Garvagh.