Personal Journey: Local mayor, a professional skydiver, has life-changing surgery

Skydiving can be terrifying. And though there are inherent risks, many people say it’s extremely addictive and there is nothing like that feeling of freefalling through the air.

Nicole Condrey will tell you that she and her husband, Ron, moved to Middletown in 2017 because of skydiving. The two met while jumping out of airplanes.

“We lived in Virginia Beach and my husband was about to retire from the Navy,” Condrey said. “I was working as an electrical engineer and diplomat for the government.”

On a trip through Ohio to visit their parents, the couple made a quick stop in Middletown and looked up a skydiving group known as Team Fastrax – a parachute demonstration team, which had intrigued them for many years.

“We met the owner,” Condrey said. “And he suggested we try out for the team! How could we say no?”

They made the team, deciding to move to Middletown shortly thereafter. Condrey went on leave from her job to give herself time to determine if she could make skydiving a career.

“The selection process was long and complex,” Condrey said. “Skydiving skills were important but mostly it was about the person you are and your willingness to give back to the community and be a good human.”

With about 40 active members on Team Fastrax, it was also important to fit in, especially since all are skydiving full time. The team travels the country and performs demonstration jumps into soccer and football games, weddings, veteran and golf events, patriotic events and even in Hollywood for movie appearances.

“We have a non-profit foundation that supports wounded veterans and their families,” Condrey said. “We host a ‘Warrior Weekend,’ that is important because it brings together veterans and families who have lost someone.”

As much as the couple felt at home in Ohio and were excited about their skydiving careers, Condrey’s husband, Ron, who had been struggling with traumatic brain injury – the result of his time in the military working with explosives - ended up dying by suicide.

“He felt like a shell of the warrior he once was,” Condrey said. “I donated his brain to the Concussion Legacy Foundation because we don’t know very much about brain injuries, something veterans suffer from at a very high rate.”

Ron’s death marked a crossroads for Condrey, who was faced with a decision – return to her job with the federal government and continue to serve her country as a diplomat, traveling the world, or stay in Middletown.

“One of my teammates suggest I run for mayor of Middletown,” Condrey said. “I laughed at first but then I thought this sounded like a purposeful challenge. Ron always said that things happen for us and not to us.”

Condrey won the election and has been serving as mayor for the past two years, working hard to help the people of Middletown build up confidence in their city and become empowered to make improvements.

“When I became mayor, the people would say we will never do anything to make change because we are Middletown and no one cares about us,” Condrey said. “I was shocked to hear that.”

On the skydiving front, Condrey continued working with her Fastrax teammates who recognized the void in her life since Ron’s passing and, knowing their competitive nature, encouraged her to train for skydiving competition. Condrey and a teammate started training together in 2019 and began winning competitions.

“We were training at our facility in May of 2021, doing one of the most dangerous maneuvers and the wind pushed us and we ended up over a set of hangers and I hit a steel beam.”

Condrey broke her arm and damaged her neck and spinal column. Her arm was a rather quick fix, but she didn’t regain full movement. An MRI scan revealed a compressed disc and that’s when she met Dr. Kamal Woods of Dayton, a minimally invasive spine surgeon, who recommended a synthetic disc replacement. Woods performed the surgery in June of 2021.

“I was so impressed with Nicole’s motivation and her recovery,” Woods said. “She is one of the most dedicated athletes I have ever met in my professional career, and I believed she was recovered enough after six weeks to return to the skies.”

And she did just that. Three months after her surgery, Condrey had completed 23 sky dives and competed in the US Nationals in October where her team won a gold medal.

Today she continues working on behalf of Middletown and its citizens and, of course, on her skydiving competition career.

“I want to get back into demonstration skydiving too because carrying an American flag into a stadium is one of the biggest honors,” Condrey said. “I will keep accepting purposeful challenges. Ron may not physically be here with me, but he is in every other way.”

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