A diving extraordinaire


Many people were always awed whenever mom effortlessly knifed into the pool water after a dive off the board.

Barely a ripple.

She reminded me of the late actress/diver Esther Williams in the movies, and I often told her that whenever I saw or talked to her on the phone — and she would just laugh.

“I’m not that good,” she would say, modestly.

But she really was.

She was also a very strong swimmer, tennis player, and bowler…but back her day, well, it was pretty much a guy’s sports world. Indulging in what historians call a counterfactual, what if she had been noticed by someone and gotten the proverbial big break?

Who knows, maybe she would’ve been some competition for Williams. Or, would’ve become an Olympics diver.

Well, Williams may have been a better diver, but the Hollywood star couldn’t laugh like my mom. Nobody could.

When my mom laughed, everybody in a crowded room knew the laugh. It was loud, infectious, and made you smile — made you feel good. You were just glad to be a part of that scene.

Sometimes inadvertently, she became the life of the party. She was very energetic, vivacious. She made friends easily.

Well, the party’s over now. Early Wednesday morning…she…she…she was 91.

Mom was 19 when she got married, and 20 when she had me. I was her first.

Mom was a child of the Great Depression and World War II.

As a teenager, she often wrote, and sent fudge and cookies to Uncle Herb after he enlisted in 1942.

“I thought he was the most handsome and happiest man I had ever seen in his army uniform,” she’d tell me.

She and several other relatives were at the train station when Herb returned home from the war in the fall of 1945

“The first thing he did was move back to my parents’ home, buy a red Chevy, and continue his job at Rochester Products,” mom recalled.

My mom credited Herb with being a “great influence” in her life.

“He was so male, kind, loving, considerate, funny, and handsome,” she’d say. “I knew that when I grew up I wanted to find someone like him to marry.”

Turns out that she did — my father.

My mother and father went on to raise six children — no easy task then (or ever). If six wasn’t enough, they even cared for foster children, and some lifetime friendships and relationships were formed as a result.

My mom, I believe, saw only one of my high school varsity baseball games. I mean, really, when did she have the time, right? But she made time after I was promoted to the team when I was a sophomore.

During summers, the family often visited and swam at nearby creeks and beaches. At a place with a pool and diving board, it was a real treat. It just seemed like everyone there would stop what they were doing and watch mom dive.

Jump one time. Then two. Up, up, and away. Arms out. Bend. Arms in. Descend head first with arms in. And, then almost quietly into the water.

So graceful, so athletic, so beautiful.

That was my mom.

Ron Johnston is a Marietta Times sports writer and can be reached at rjohnston@mariettatimes.com