My mother taught Red Cross swimming lessons at one level or another for 60 years. Over the years, she accumulated patches and pins related to her service to Red Cross and the community. She was well-known in town and around the Nebraska Panhandle for teaching swimming and life saving. I often hear “Your Mom taught me to swim.”
When she reached the 50 year mark, national Red Cross gave her this pin:
The City Council commended her for her volunteer work, with this text, edited from a scan of the proclamation they presented her:
After 50 years teaching swimming to kids and adults, she slowed down a bit, teaching Adapted Aquatics (in the non-pc days called “Handicapped Swimming”), and limited her students to one at a time. Their disabilities ranged from blindness to bodies weakened by polio and Lou Gehrig’s disease.
Mom especially enjoyed this part of her career because it verified her belief that anyone can benefit from swimming, and it didn’t have to be style-perfect. The benefits of water therapy were more important, she felt, than style for people otherwise unable to participate in swimming.
She continued to teach 10 years, for a total of 60. She swam for exercise till her late 80s before she put away her swimming suit. “I’ll swim as long as I can climb into a swimming suit,” she always said! The “Swim and Stay Fit” pin and patch on the windbreaker came about through her participation in that program. She swam laps till she accumulated 50 miles, then she started over again. She swam hundreds of miles, a lap at a time!
My brother served in the US Navy as a Seabee. One of his duty stations was in Thailand. He brought home a Thai Red Cross pin that Mom treasured!
Over the years, Mom acquired and accumulated many pins and patches. Ultimately, she acquired a Red Cross windbreaker, and attached and sewed all of these mementos of her career to it. Notice she attached the treasured Thai Red Cross pin at the top of the red cross. Mom’s Red Cross windbreaker….
Mom died January 5, 2013. I haven’t sorted through my Dad’s things (he died November 4, 2008), so you can guess Mom’s things are just there, where she put them, too. The swimming suits, six or seven old chlorine-faded black one piece “old lady” swimsuits hang in the closet, along with odds and ends of dress clothes, and Mom’s Red Cross windbreaker.
I have no idea what I’ll do with the clothes or swimsuits, all old, out of style, too personal, but the Red Cross windbreaker is unique among her things. It is something that stands for her 60 years of teaching swimming to this community, and is something people who remember Mom will recognize as hers.
In June 2004, the City Council went one step further to recognize Mom’s volunteer efforts in the community: They named the bathhouse of the new swimming pool after her. Mounted on the outside wall, there is a bronze plaque noting the fact. Mom insisted the plaque include her (and Dad’s) life motto: “Service to others is the price you pay for the space you occupy.”
Here’s the newspaper photo from that June 3, 2004 ceremony. Mom’s showing off her “Old swimmers don’t die, they just need more strokes” t-shirt to the attendees.
I’m considering donating the proclamation, a photo of Mom, and the windbreaker so that they can be mounted in a display case at the bathhouse. Mom would be happy, I think, to put her windbreaker and the other items to this purpose. There was a clipboard she used for achievement sheets for her swimming students as long as I can remember as well. I’ve no idea what happened to it, but I’ll add that to the items for display, too, if it shows up.