13. William Ivy Baldwin had a full, fascinating life and celebrated turning 82 by walking a tightrope over a canyon
Most people celebrate their 82nd birthdays by having a relaxing, carefree day. But Ivy Baldwin was no ordinary man. He lived for thrills and adventure. From an early age, he pushed himself to the limit, first as a balloonist and then as a high-wire performer. And it was the latter passion he carried on into old age. Indeed, to mark his 82nd birthday, he walked a tightrope strung 125 feet above the South Boulder Creek canyon in Colorado. Remarkably, despite his advanced age, he made it safely across the gap – yet another landmark achievement in his remarkable life.
Baldwin was just a young boy when he ran away from home and joined the circus in 1877. His short stature and lightweight frame made him an ideal balloonist. To the amazement of the paying crowds, he would take to the skies and pretend to fall from the rising balloon, only to open up a hidden parachute and float back down to earth. His skills won Baldwin the attention of the U.S. Army and he was commissioned to fly above enemy troops during the Spanish-American War. Here, he became the first American aviator to be shot down. He dined out on the story for decades, and he continued to walk high wires well into old age. In the end, Baldwin died in his sleep in 1953.