A Special Tribute

Arthur Stapler |  1958-2005


“Rebel With A Dream”

Art Stapler finds new-found freedom in freefalling from 13,500 feet

On March 10, 1979, his 21st birthday, Syracuse University student Arthur Stapler was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. It changed his physician life forever, but not his spirit of “Can Do!” nor his appetite for fun and adventure.

Even through the early 90s, Stapler was an avid cyclist, first using a standard two-wheeled bike. When his balance became unsteady, he had a custom racing tricycle built. He could be seen traversing the paths of Chesterbrook and Valley Forge Park. He also did some four-track now-skiing at resorts in Idaho and in Vail, Colorado.

Unfortunately, Art had a progressive form of Multiple Sclerosis. “I was taking so many oral medications, that I was unable to focus, and felt that I was always in a fog. There’s nothing more important than a clear head, and I had a great deal of spasticity. That’s when I came to see Dr. Michael Saulino at Magee about Intrathecal Baclofen therapy. This therapy reduced by spasticity.”

In April 1999, Art began monthly visits with Dr. Saulino for management of his newly implanted pump. Regaining his focus and vigor, Stapler nevertheless needed something that would fulfill his sense of daring and adventure.

Newscasts provided the answer. He saw that Anne Curry of the Today show jumped with the U.S. Army Golden Knights. Then there was President George H. W. Bush as well as a 90-year-old grandmother who experienced the thrill of skydiving. The last straw came when he noted that a dachshund has made over 100 jumps. “If a dog could do it, I knew I could. I just had to find a way to do it,” Art says.

It was a very ambitious quest for a person with full use of only his right arm and very limited use of his left arm and legs.

In the fall of 2002 Stapler logged on to to explain his situation. The results were extraordinarily positive—over 500 hits, and 30 responses encouraging Stapler to live his dream. After consulting with Dr. Saulino, Art took the big step.

Stapler hooked up with Free Fall Adventures Skydiving School in Williamstown, New Jersey. They agreed that a tandem-jump (Art attached to a Tandem instructor) could be accomplished. The jump was planned for March 10, 2003, his 45th birthday, but cold weather intervened. It was 31 deg. F. on the group, but 31 degrees colder at 13,500 feet. Finally, the jump took place on July 15th, and Art and his tandem instructor from Germany by the name of Range made the ascent.

“I was trussed up like a Thanksgiving turkey,” Art says. “My legs were bound, my arms were folded in, but I felt comfortable, and the anticipation was terrific. We got up to 13,500 feet, circled and then suddenly it was time to go! We freefell for about 60 to 70 seconds, and when the canopy opened, we came up with a jolt. Floating under the canopy, we hit land about 6 to 8 minutes later.”

“The experience was unbelievable! I was weightless…I was alive…I was out of my bed and out of my wheelchair. I knew this was for me!”

On July 20th, CNN ran a feature on Stapler and his jump. It came with the lead, “A Dream Takes Flight” and CNN later added, “He can’t walk but he can fly!” A radio station in Palm Springs, California, picked up on the news release about the jump and aired a 10-minute live interview with Stapler. A friend, Michelle Lesser, wrote a story about the jump for the dropzone website.

End of story? Not! Six weeks later, on August 26th, Stapler jumped again, and a friend of his, Barbara, came out to watch and see exactly how it was done. Barbara, who also has MS was so encouraged, she immediately followed with a tandem jump of her own.                         {article: Winter 2004 edition of Can Do! – a Magee Rehabilitation Hospital publication}

A video of: Arthur Stapler’s dream jump

Arthur passed away on Saturday, May 14, 2005 from MS. He was 47.

Rebel dreamed of freedom. He dreamed of moving through space, touching the infinite, of being in the heart of the world, in the sky. He wanted…and he got. And now, as I try to imagine what he’s doing, I can see him running. Cheering. Flying. Swooping with his angels, and dancing with God. He is joyous now, zinging around, doing everything at once (’cause that is what heaven would be for him…everything…). He smiles so widely his face cracks. He is free now, loved and loving ever present in those whose lives he touched, into whose hearts he burrowed, into whose spirits his he met there in the sky; or… dancing in freedom and in joy. I listen closely, and I can hear his laugh again, loud and reverberating through my heart.  

Rebel my friend, dance with the angels, and smile with God…and endless blue skies for you.                                                       {written by: Michelle Lesser  May 17, 2005}

Michael J Stapler – Arthur’s dad


Michael J. Stapler, was honored and presented with the HOPE AWARD at the annual National MS Society meeting on Thurs., Nov. 17, 2016 for his devotion to to the cause and outstanding fund raising achievements benefiting the MS community. After losing his son (and wife) to Multiple Sclerosis he and his family have dedicated themselves to giving back and helping others afflicted with this disease.


Kayla Montgomery – Champion MS Runner

A video of: Kayla Montgomery defeating the odds

Connect with us