Mom’s red windbreaker

A proclamation...!

A proclamation…!

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.”

Picture 240

When she reached the 50 year mark, national Red Cross gave her this pin:

red cross 50 years pin_edited-1

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!

adapted aquatics
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!

Thai Red Cross pin that Mom treasured.

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….

red cross with pins

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.

mom at swimming pool

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.



21 thoughts on “Mom’s red windbreaker

  1. Losing a parent is heartbreaking and going through their personal belongings can be rough; but you must be so very proud of your mother’s accomplishments and the city’s recognition shows that so many others do as well.

    • That I am (and my family are). Both Mom and Dad set high standards for themselves, had high expectations of us kids, and I am glad of it. Service to others was in their genetic make-up, and they passed that on to us kids. (I don’t come anywhere close to their level of service, honestly, and I think a lot of it relates back to that generation – Mom & Dad’s – you write about so eloquently, and what they did to make it possible for us to sit at our computers, in freedom and writing in English instead of Japanese or German!)

      • And how.

        Mom and Dad worked long hours building a home they lived in half a century, using wood from a warehouse they and another couple tore down at the old air base outside town. (One of the places where paratroopers and glider pilots trained for D-Day.) They raised four children, were very active in civic and church organizations, and were good neighbors.

        My Dad left for work in time to start at 6 AM, and we picked him up at 6 PM. I was in my forties before I learned his actual work hours were 7-4! He was chief of police here, and, unlike his successors, had to make do with second hand furniture, short staff, and a tight budget (i.e. if he wanted office supplies, he had to buy them himself!!!)

        The reason he worked the four extra hours each day: the city was so f’ing cheap they wouldn’t hire a clerk to take care of paperwork, so the top guy in the department did it on his own time, four extra unpaid (of course!) hours a day for years. “We needed the patrolmen on the street. That’s why I do it. No one else was doing it,” Dad said.

        When people called him at home during his lunch hour – they couldn’t let the man have a stinking uninterrupted hour with his family! – he patiently explained to them (in one instance) that the police couldn’t make children not use a public sidewalk in front of this one caller’s house. He never complained about this. Ever! (Leave it to his son to take care of that.)

        “I work for the people, so of course I had our telephone number listed in the book,” he once said after I learned one of the men who succeeded him had a private, unlisted number. Dad said he lived inside the city limits (higher taxes than living outside the city limits) when the unlisted telephone number guy lived outside city limits. “Alliance pays me, so I owe the city that much. Plus all four of you kids used the schools here….!”

        Different generations. Dad and Mom believed they owed their service to their community, no matter what personal inconvenience it might cause or whether or not it was acknowledged.

  2. I have to say I don’t agree. They almost certainly won’t value the set like your family would. Also the humid atmosphere probably won’t be conducive to it lasting that long which means they may have a refurb or some form of clean out in 50 or 100 or however many years and then store it away in a basement where it could get ruined and then thrown out.

    If you give it to someone in your family they will treasure it not because of WHAT it is, but because of WHO had it, so it is a lot more likely to be kept safe and sound in perpetuity as it will be passed down the generations.

    I don’t have anything like that, and believe me I wish I had.

    Definitely keep it in the family.

    • I’m the one who gets to keep all these things. I get your point, though. The windbreaker is Nylon, but there are things attached that moisture could ruin. The proclamation is, of course, paper. Anyway, it may be that these items are more suitable for the museum in the park instead. It IS environmentally controlled for archival and display conservation.

  3. What a lovely tribute to your late mother. I think framing the windbreaker and mementos in a shadow box and mounting it in the bathhouse would be a fitting place for your Mom’s things. And I’m sure your Mom would feel very honored!

    • Thanks, leggypeggy! She was a lot of fun, and uninhibited as heck. She also was a great teacher.

      One example of her approach, from her substitute teaching days, was how the teacher she was subbing for went into great detail about how this one child acted up every day, what a problem child he was, etc.

      Mom said she ignored the warning. (She raised four kids, two of whom were boys, after all, so she had some sensibilities about such things! Ha!)

      The problem kid started right in when the bell rang. He made a fart sound with his hand in his armpit.

      Mom asked him if there was a problem… “I just wanted to show you what a fart sounds like,” he said. His regular teacher would have sent him to the principal.

      My Mom said, “Oh, OK! Thank you.” (She said the hard part was was not laughing!) He wasn’t a problem the rest of the day or any time she subbed in that room after.

      • I suspect raising four kids and being a working mother was a large part of it, though, as an only child she pretty much knew how to work the world to her will. Ha!

        (I’m glad you commented for another reason: I wrote “principle” for “principal”. English orthography! A nightmare, but spell check loved it, of course…! It’s corrected now.)

    • I’m torn between keeping it in the family, where it, the windbreaker, would hang in a closet or lending it to the city for display at the bathhouse. Read the letter from Whocaaares above for how one Belgian swimming pool dealt with swimming artifacts…! The proclamation is hanging on my wall. I have lots of framed family photos and awards on my walls, so I get to enjoy them, at least.

  4. Fantastic post! I read it twice …
    Even if sadly it reminded me of what we went through the last week of December 2013. In a similar way, early in January, my grand-father dug out old pictures from photo albums, and started telling us stories we had never heard before …

    The swimming pool I used to go as a kid had a large glass display case used to display mostly articles swimming suits, caps, and so on, but a narrow section at an end side displayed old swimming clothes, and black and white pictures behind (of Belgian aquatics medalists and such) … So now, if the swimming pool doesn’t have such display, maybe drop the suggestion … It would definitely be an interesting collection to show keen lovers of swimming sports

    • Thanks, Anthony! You are fortunate your Grandfather took the time (and so did you!) to hear the stories behind the photos. I am the youngest child of the youngest child on my father’s side, and my Mom was the only child of a couple who had her (after lots of problems getting pregnant) late in life. Most of the people who could tell me about many family photos are dead, and died before I had enough sense to be interested in such things.

      Yes, a display case of swimming artifacts would be interesting! Some of those old swimming suits (made of wool!) would be especially interesting. Women especially wore a lot when “bathing”. I suspect the water the soaked into all those clothes must have been a safety hazard. Anyway, that’s no problem these days, especially in Northern Germany on the Baltic beaches and the Riviera, among other enlightened places! (You’d have to have photos of those “suits”, I guess!)

  5. Thanks! Unfortunately, the swimsuits are pretty ratty, and there aren’t any extra patches since Mom put them all on her windbreaker. I sent this to the woman who manages the park system in town so she can evaluate the offer. (I’ll take in other things later if she’s interested.)

  6. That would be very fitting to donate it to the bath house Doug. After all these years her legacy will sit where it happened more or less.
    She sounded a remarkable woman with a heart of Gold..
    I was thinking, why not frame a few items of her swimming costumes with say a badge on it?
    That would be amazing, on the wall for all time.

    Great blog mate, your Mum will be looking down a very proud woman at what an amazing son she helped create..


  7. Doug,
    This entry was awesome. . . I have extremely fond memories watching your mom leave for the pool and come back looking as refreshed (or maybe more so) when she returned. I remember envying her beautiful hair . . . dry or wet . . . and her tanned legs!!!
    I am more than grateful for having the honor of living next to your parents. They were the BEST neighbors ever.
    Thanks for sharing this memory . . . It’s a keeper!!!

    • Thanks, Candis! (I’ve rewritten some of it, so there might be some you haven’t seen…) Mom and Dad (not to forget me!) always felt blessed to have you and your family as neighbors, so don’t think the admiration isn’t mutual!

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