KENNEBUNKPORT, Maine —
Hundreds of people had gathered along rocks near the church to get a glimpse of the jump.
"He has a lot of courage. We need more like him," said David Morris, 79, of Melrose, Massachusetts.
"I think it's wonderful. I hope I can jump out of a plane at 90," said Carol Schierl, 75, of Green Bay, Wisconsin,
The jump was kept secret until Thursday morning partly to give Bush himself the option of bagging it.
Spokesman Jim McGrath said the former president likes both a surprise and an adrenaline rush.
"It's vintage George Bush," McGrath said. "It's that passion for life. It's wanting to set a goal, wanting to achieve it. I'm sure part of it is sending a message to others that even in your retirement years you can still find challenges."
The first time Bush jumped from an airplane was when his plane was shot down in World War II over the Pacific. Later, he decided to jump from a plane of his own accord and marked his 75th, 80th and 85th birthdays by skydiving. Thursday marked his eight jump.
Other birthday festivities included a private dinner with more than 200 relatives and friends, including some from his White House days: press secretary Marlin Fitzwater, White House counsel Boyden Gray and political director Ron Kaufman, McGrath said. His children, including former President George W. Bush and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, will be there, McGrath said.
Kennebunkport is a special place for the president. As a boy, he visited the family home at Walker's Point every summer, except during World War II. The retreat was later dubbed his "summer White House."
During his presidential years, Bush was known for jogging, tennis and fast-paced golf, but he now uses a wheelchair or scooter because of a form of parkinsonism that has robbed him of use of his legs. He signed the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990.