darlene d. kellner.

hazleton, pennsylvania.  |  wife. teacher. skydiver. nana. engineer. pilot.

I met Darlene D. Kellner through my magical cousin Larry Greenberg. Darlene’s story intrigued me for a number of reasons. She is a teacher, engineer, and pilot. Darlene is an popular skydive instructor and her reputation is unmatched. Her students have a unwavering connection with her— which may be normal—they are jumping out of a plane with her, after all. But after connecting with her, I suspect their love and respect goes beyond the average feelings for a jump instructor. This is one bad ass Nana.

Enjoy today’s j. jane highlight.

How old were you when you first jumped out of a perfectly good, safely operating aircraft? And how did that first jump make you feel?

I made my first skydive the day after my 18th birthday. I never really had a burning desire to skydive, but I really wanted to be a pilot and thought it would be a good idea to know how to jump in case of emergency. I didn’t really like my first jump. It was on an old military surplus parachute opened by a static-line. The only reason I came back was because I didn’t pull my own ripcord to open the chute and I felt I hadn’t achieved my purpose.

How many jumps have you done to date?


j. jane response: Really?! That’s all?  (OMG.) Yes, this amazing woman has jumped out of an airplane 16, 625 times. Deliberately.

What has been your greatest obstacle in life and how do/did you navigate it?

My greatest obstacles in life have been my physical challenges. When I was 8 years old I had an infection in my femur that almost killed me and left me with a deformed hip and early onset arthritis. That same challenge gave me an appreciation and drive for living life to the fullest in our limited time on this planet.

Have you ever been in a dangerous situation that you felt you would not be able to pull yourself out of? If yes, how did you push fear aside and persevere?

Yes. Breathe! That is the first step to a clear mind. Realize there are always options. It is amazing how fear limits our vision in so many ways, physically, mentally, and emotionally. Stop, breathe, look 360 for all of your options.

When you instruct a first-time jumper, what do you say to them to overcome any fears they may have had? (Let’s face it, jumping out of an airplane at 10,000 feet on purpose is a pretty daunting experience for most.)

One of the things I love about running a skydiving school is having people get past a fear they learn right after they learn to crawl, the fear of falling. The reward for this accomplishment is the true realization of how capable we really are as an individual and that we ourselves and our fears are really what limit us. I analyze each student for what would make them the most comfortable and try to make a personal connection that will allow them to give me their fear so they can get past it. There are no stock words that work in this situation.

Do you ever feel guilty? If yes … what for?

Not having enough time for everything I would like to do, especially the most important thing, spending quality time with my family and friends. There just aren’t enough hours in a day.

What is your best advice on how to live a graceful life?

I have to go back to my favorite quote for this one – “To laugh often and much, to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children, to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends, to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others, to leave the world a bit better … to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded!” 
- Ralph Waldo Emerson.

side notes from j. jane:

The Emerson quote is one of my favorites too. A friend etched those thoughtful words on a plate with my j. jane logo at the top.  It sits on my desk as a daily reminder to live life gracefully.

If you are considering a jump, I’d highly recommend a trip to Pennsylvania. Visit Darlene’s website.

  • Eric P.
    Posted at 13:45h, 14 November

    A great mentor and genuine all American woman. I went seeking adventure, and left with a whole new group of friends added to my circle. What great people this woman attracts. Darlene is kind, ambitious, and doesn’t take no for an answer when it comes to a student’s self doubt. She is an amazing educator and will coach a person comfortably past their fears. She is nothing short of incredible.

    • Jessica Jane Stepleton Stern
      Posted at 20:43h, 16 November

      thanks for sharing, eric. darlene is pretty amazing.