PEPPERELL -- When Mary Lou Sirois's husband died in a skydiving accident in the 1970s, his skydiving buddies quickly became her family.
"These people became my world. I was almost dependent on them. I didn't want to be alone," she said.
"After I moved away, some of us lost touch. I wanted to see my family again," Sirois said.
That urge led Sirois, who never skydived herself, to plan a reunion for those friends that jumped at Skydive Pepperell in the 1960s and 70s. Although she now lives in Florida, Sirois planned the reunion remotely, using Facebook to connect with old friends and spread word about the gathering.
Of the 75 people Sirois invited, 63 came to celebrate the reunion last weekend at Skydive Pepperell, traveling from as far away as Washington state to relax, reminisce and, in the case of about one-third of the attendees, skydive.
Sirois's daughter, Christine Sirois Johns, who helped plan the reunion, said that even though she was a kid when her parents' friends were skydiving, it was important to her to see them all again.
"I grew up on the drop zone. All these people had a hand in raising me," Johns said.
Don Mayer co-owns the airport at Skydive Pepperell with Fran Strimenos. They offered Sirois use of the land for the reunion, so that members of the group could congregate in the place where they all met.
"We were all very tight when we jumped together. But everyone went their separate ways with families and jobs and babies and houses. People get scattered so much that it took us six months to find everyone," Mayer said.
However, he said the time did not change most people.
"You see everybody and it's instant friendship," he said.
Daniel Roderick, of Taunton, started skydiving when he was 18 years old. He said the best part of the reunion was seeing people for the first time in 40 years.
"Everybody has stories. People have traveled long distances. It's just a good feeling to be here," Roderick said.
Bob McDonald, of Norwell, has completed more than 1,200 jumps, including many with a competitive team in the 1960s and 70s. He still skydives regularly, and said seeing others jump at the reunion, many for the first time in years, was a great feeling.
"Getting back into it, it's like you're getting a second life," he said.
Others, like Dave Curry, of Plattsburg, N.Y., loved skydiving so much that they were willing to make other sacrifices to be able to continue jumping.
Curry lived out of his van in the early 1970s, working as a rigger at various skydiving facilities and doing jumps on the weekends.
"It was a fun time in my life. Skydivers are a very close group. These people were like my family. It's fun to know we're all still alive, and a lot of us are still jumping," he said.
For Sirois, that feeling of community was strong.
"When you see people week after week doing what they love, you automatically want to be a part of it," she said.
As she sat at the reunion barbecue, she looked around, smiling at the crowd she had managed to assemble.
"I think my heart's going to burst. It's like those 35 years just disappeared," she said.
Follow Chelsea Feinstein at Twitter.com/CEFeinstein.