TWIN FALLS, Idaho — Frederick Kellerman always wanted to BASE jump from the Perrine Bridge, his wife Valerie Kellerman said. He died in July at the age of 61, but Monday, the Vietnam veteran’s friends and family made sure his wish was carried out.
Experienced BASE jumper Max Kuszaj jumped from the bridge, spreading Fred’s ashes during the descent.
Before the jump, the Twin Falls Honor Guard gave him a full send-off, complete with a rifle squad and color guard.
Several dozen people, some clad in military uniform and some in leather motorcycle gear, to honor their fellow biker, lined the Snake River Canyon Rim.
As Kuszaj jumped, a small puff of ashes could be seen above him before they floated down to the river below. As Kuszaj safely landed, the crowd cheered.
After the ceremony, Kellerman said she was grateful for everyone who had come out to honor her husband. The two were together for 11 years, she said. Her husband battled illness for the last seven years. Kellerman believes his wartime contact with defoliant Agent Orange contributed to his death.
Fred Kellerman was a paratrooper and parachute rigger in the Army Rangers 173rd Airborne Infantry Division, she said. He retired in 1993 after 24 years of service. After retiring, he took care of his parents.
“His parents passed and it was just him and I taking care of each other,” she said. “Now it’s just me.”
About five or six years ago, Kellerman said, her husband got the idea that he’d like to BASE jump from the Perrine Bridge. The couple planned to come to Twin Falls from their home in Florida in August 2013, but he died before they could make the trip.
Word of Fred Kellerman’s wish made it to the Bonneville Bullet motorcycle racing team. Member Scotty Wayment spread the word to other bikers and veterans. They then talked with the Twin Falls Honor Guard to organize the ceremony.
“Our Vietnam vets, they didn’t get recognized,” said Kathryn Peterson, DAV commander for the group.
The Honor Guard goes the extra mile for Vietnam veterans to make sure their families know their service was appreciated, she said.
“They have such a bad taste in their mouth from when they came back,” she said. “We feel honored to do whatever their family needs.”
When Wayment asked Kuszaj to be the jumper for the ceremony, Kuszak said, he felt that it would be a privilege.
“He asked me if I would do it and I said I’d be honored,” she said.