Profile - Kim Emmons Knor | D-221
by Brian Giboney
Kim Emmons Knor, D-221, is a sky goddess. She started skydiving in 1959 (back when jumping from an airplane took even more courage), and in 1962 she made history as a member of the first U.S. Women’s Parachute Team, which took gold at the Sixth World Parachuting Championships. After a 37-year break from jumping, she took up the sport again in 2003. In April, the National Skydiving Museum named Emmons Knor as one of the inductees into its prestigious Hall of Fame.
Marital Status: Widow
Occupation: Retired from ophthalmology. House/pet sitting, childcare and sewing now for additional income to jump and travel.
Sponsors: Parachute Club of America (USPA’s predecessor), U.S. Army, Pioneer Parachutes (all from the olden days)
Container: Sun Path Javelin
Main Canopy: Performance Designs Navigator 260
Reserve Canopy: Performance Designs PD 218R
AAD: Airtec Cypres 2
Disciplines: Style and accuracy in my first six years; formation belly flying in these JOS [Jumpers Over Seventy] years.
Home Drop Zone: Mile-Hi Skydiving Center in Longmont, Colorado
Year of First Jump: 1959
USPA Licenses: B-356, C-333, D-221
Championships: 1962 Sixth World Parachuting Championships, women’s team gold. One of two women who competed with the men at the 1961 Team Tryouts (essentially, the Nationals) at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
Total Number of Jumps: 532
Style & Accuracy: 420
Tandems: One (with Jay Stokes in 2010)
Total Number of Cutaways: Zero
Most people don't know this about me:
I sold all my possessions including my own contact lens manufacturing company, bought a Eurail Pass and an open-ended plane ticket and was a parachute bum for 10 months in 21 countries, jumping wherever they would let me, primarily looking for a husband!
Of all your skydives, is there one jump that stands out the most?
Two stand out equally: taking down power lines on my first jump and putting 52 homes out of light and heat in December in the Chicago area, and receiving a diamond engagement ring during a baton pass on my 20th jump (June 19, 1960).
Who has been your skydiving mentor?
Jerry Bourquin, D-22, a U.S. Army Golden Knight and an incredibly great coach, teacher and encourager.
How did you become interested in skydiving?
My uncle brought home a parachute used to save his life as a pilot during World War II, told the story, and I was hooked at 5 years old. I just knew I needed to jump from aircraft. Then I saw all the newsreels of mass parachute jumps. The first opportunity I got, I forged my parents’ signatures and made that first jump with great determination.
If you could do a fantasy 2-way with anybody, whom would it be with and where would it take place?
That would be with my deceased husband, Milan (Max) Knor, at Jumptown in Orange, Massachusetts. We’d have a long kiss pass and open over the bowl [the landing area for the 1962 championships] where it all began for us.
What do you consider your most significant life achievement?
My marriage to Max, a member of the Yugoslavian team whom I met at the 1962 World Championships. He defected; we married and had two amazing daughters and four incredible grandkids, who all live in Denver. They ski and tunnel fly with me... yeah!
What has been your best skydiving moment?
Jumping into the Inn at Orange with my husband-to-be and winning steak dinners for the closest score. It happened several times, which was great since we had no money to eat dinner.
How did you get to your current level of talent?
I just kept showing up, asking for help and people to jump with me and critique. To be in the JOEs (Jumpers Over Eighty) gang with my friend Lew Sanborn would be great. He was there when I started, and maybe we can finish together.
You were on the first U.S. Women's Parachute Team. What was the level of pressure, and what was it like winning gold?
Winning was the high point of all of our jumping careers. We were in the spotlight and had to show our best. The majority of women from other countries had three or four times our number of jumps and more experience. However, our coaches were the Army parachute team—Jim Arender, Jerry Bourquin, Loy Brydon, Dick Fortenberry and Phil VanderWeg—all amazing skydivers! Plus, we had the latest and greatest equipment. The guys just pushed us to do our best and develop good mental strategy. The pressure was to avoid intimidation of the well-seasoned Eastern Bloc women. Also, CBS Sports Spectacular was there filming, so we were seen nationwide.
You took a break from skydiving but came back strong. What relit the fire?
I took a 37-year break after my husband had a severe injury test jumping a canopy for Pioneer Parachute the day after our first daughter was born. After three years of surgeries to save his legs, we chose to stop jumping. He died in 1997, and I moved to Denver. I went to the second Pioneers of Sport Parachuting Reunion (POSPR), and it became an annual event. In 2002, my old friend, coach and mentor Jerry Bourquin convinced me to just make a jump for old times. Between Jerry and Jim Wallace taking me on my re-entry jump, the addiction returned! After being exposed to the possibility of gliding through the sky in a parachute at age 5, jumping next year at 75 will be a joyful celebration of what is in my heart and soul.
What has been your most embarrassing moment at a drop zone?
Being in a thermal for eight minutes on my approach for an accuracy jump in the world championships. Three subsequent jumpers landed before I finally gave up and landed with a poor score.