Not everyone celebrates a birthday with a skydiving adventure, but Andy Daniels of Indianola did just that, and it’s a birthday he won’t soon forget. The State Farm insurance agent didn’t mind turning 46, but he did want to fulfill a long-standing wish and do something memorable. Plans to take the dive on his 40th birthday didn’t work out but the dream lived on and this year he made it.
“It was awesome, amazing, and so much fun,” he said. “I was not afraid at all and would love to do it again.”
Daniels made a tandem dive with an instructor provided by Gold Coast SkyDiving in Lumberton. The jump was from 14,000 feet with free falling for about 60 seconds. He learned of tandem and static dives from a friend and decided his first dive would be tandem — a dive on the back of an experienced skydiving instructor. “With a tandem dive, it’s basically going on a ride,” he said of the experience.
He’s always had skydiving in the back of his mind and thought it would be fun. “My wife finally gave me permission to do it,” he said. “Her uncle and his daughter did it on his 60th birthday and his daughter’s 30th; maybe that’s what convinced my wife I could do it.”
Daniels said the worst part of the event was actually the anticipation during the dive from Indianola in the Delta to Lumberton in Southwest Mississippi.
He used Gold Coast Skydivers, a USPA Group Member, just 20 minutes south of Hattiesburg. Gold Coast’s drop zone services Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Northwest Florida.
Gold Coast Skydivers has been in operation since April 1993 and they are the only place to skydive in Mississippi.
Watch Andy’s skydiving experience:
Daniels grew up in Cleveland as the youngest of the three sons of Vern and Sara Daniels. He says he had a great life growing up in this Delta university town. However, when it came time to go to college, he claims his parents told him he could go to school anywhere as long as he got out of town. That turned out to be Mississippi College in Clinton where he majored in marketing with a minor in management.
“My dad was a State Farm agent, retiring in 2007, and that was one reason I chose insurance as a career. I saw him be successful and what that allowed him to do for his clients and his family,” Daniels said. “He liked having his own business.”
However, career wise it was not a straight line to insurance for Andy Daniels. He spent a few years with Sherwin Williams and Entergy, moving nine times in eight years. “That was trying on my family; tough on a young family,” he said. “I started with State Farm on Mar. 1, 1994, deciding it would be a stable choice for my family and that I wanted to work for the number one company.”
Acknowledging that it may sound trite, Daniels really does enjoy helping clients with the education side of insurance and financial services. He likes explaining to clients what the products are supposed to do for them according to their needs. “Often people are confused about insurance products and we’re able to help them,” he said. “We help our clients solve their problems. The challenges are that it’s a changing environment with more and newer products, contracts and policies. We must keep up to be able to serve our clients.”
He enjoys the business world but would be teaching high school or college if not an insurance agent. He’s been putting that teaching instinct to use as a Sunday school teacher since 1996.
Singing with a quartet, “The Generations”, is a distinct pleasure for Daniels when he’s not working. The group has been together 10 years, singing a wide array of music types, including doo wap, Broadway tunes and Southern gospel. “I also play guitar. I love music,” he said.
Daniels and his wife of 25 years, Karen, have two daughters, Elizabeth, who’s heading to Mississippi State University this fall, and Anna, who recently finished her first year at MSU, and Sugar, a 16-year-old dachshund.