DeLand resident Michael Truffer, described by the U.S. Parachute Association as one of sky diving‘s “most devoted personalities,” has succumbed to injuries he suffered when his parachute did not open properly two weeks ago.
Truffer died Thursday afternoon, Halifax Health Medical Center spokeswoman Tangela Boyd said. He was 63.
“Mike Truffer lived life his way,” said friend Bart Rodier. “He loved machines and turning wrenches in his aircraft hangar.”
Rodier, of Orlando, said Truffer had a passion for flying, including different types of freefall, parachuting and piloting planes.
“We lost a great one,” Rodier, 57, said.
Truffer suffered serious injuries May 25 when he experienced a “hard opening” of his parachute, which caused him to rapidly decelerate, officials said. He also hit a parked vehicle when he landed in a school bus terminal at 1301 Shapiro Drive near Detrick Avenue in DeLand.
The DeLand resident became well known among the sky-diving community when he started publishing Skydiving magazine in 1979, according to the U.S. Parachute Association. He published the magazine through 2009 and also authored a book on sky-diving formations in 2011.
In 2006 he was honored with USPA‘s Gold Medal for Meritorious Achievement “for service to the USPA membership as national director and for his vision and guidance in establishing the U.S. Parachute Team Trust Fund, which has and will continue to support those teams for many years.”
Truffer spent the early to mid-1970s on the USPA staff where his roles included director of membership services and editor of Parachutist, according to USPA. He is also credited with taking on “a variety of government relations issues” during his time on the USPA’s board of directors, where he served for 16 years starting in 1981.
“He was an active jumper and an encyclopedia on two legs when it came to anything sky diving,” according to Blue Skies Magazine.
Kathryn Omelchuck Rocheleau, who worked as a reporter for Truffer’s magazine in the late ’80s and early ’90s, said she’ll never forget when, while sharing a beer at the Airport Bar after work, he told her what he had always hoped to be growing up — an entomologist, someone who studies insects.
“It surprised me so much that he wanted to be a nerdy bug scientist,” Omelchuck Rocheleau, 50, said in a phone interview.
Omelchuck Rocheleau, of Bend, Ore., said sky diving has lost a legend.
In a post on the “Messages for Mike Truffer” page, Joe Peterson shared what it was like to work with Truffer in developing an Android phone application based on Truffer’s “The Book of Skydiving Formations.”
“Mike put in a lot of time and effort, and he never complained,” Peterson wrote. “He was a joy to work with, trusting and trustworthy, and he spoke his mind always.”
Peterson wasn’t the only one to mention Truffer’s penchant for speaking his mind.
“You were quick witted, had original thoughts, and people knew exactly where you stood,” his friend Sandy Grillet wrote. “People either loved you or hated you but no one can ever say you didn’t have a huge impact on the sport we all love.”