The National Senior Games Association asked athletes to submit their favorite memories to help celebrate the 30th anniversary of The National Senior Games. Below are selected stories of laughter, friendship and triumph. Here’s to many more years of great Memories of The Games!
1987 St. Louis
In 1987, I drove my mother and step-father from Maryland to St. Louis for the first National Senior Games. At the time, I didn’t meet the qualifying age, so I went as a "hugger and chauffeur.” Our hotel had a board in the lobby to record medals won by those staying there. My mother, then 78, won the mile run. She was very proud of her gold medal. I pointed out that she now held a national age group record time, good for two years! We returned to St. Louis two years later for the second games. I finally qualified (aged up) for the third Games in Syracuse, but my step-father was ill so we could not attend. We all qualified for the fourth games in Baton Rouge, but my mother was not up to the trip. She died three weeks later. So, it took me a decade more to attend the Games on my own, but I am on a roll now and looking forward to Birmingham this year.
Francis Flatau, 80 // Maryland // Tennis, Track & Field
I grew up in Tarentum, Pennsylvania, a small mill town 20 miles northeast of Pittsburgh. Our family moved unexpectedly to Miami in 1959, right after I had graduated from high school. I left all my friends and memories behind. I returned to Pittsburgh 46 years later to play basketball in the 2005 Games. What a thrill it was for me to see three of my closest friends and high school basketball teammates in the stands at the University of Pittsburgh rooting for me! It was great spending time with them and reminiscing about our lives. What a time, taking a trip back to that special town, walking the streets and reliving memories of a joyful time in my life that helped shape who I am today. The National Senior Games gave me an opportunity for that to happen and I will be forever grateful.
Jerry Schwartz, 74 // Georgia // Basketball
1995 San Antonio
I competed in Track at the 1995 San Antonio Games. I won three medals doing what comes natural to me, and my Wisconsin delegation was extremely supportive. Our state had a gathering during the Games where I was greeted with much unexpected attention and praise. Friends and fellow participants were exceedingly generous with their comments. Wisconsin has given me years of opportunity to keep my athletic skills which contributes to good health.
Guadalupe Simons, 80 // Wisconsin // Volleyball, Track & Field
At the 2015 National Senior Games in Minnesota, Fred Adams and I bumped into each other shortly before the 5K Race Walk after 60 years of no contact whatsoever. Fred and I graduated from the University of Nebraska at Omaha and played on the Tangerine Bowl Championship football team. Actually, we sat the bench together, but were able to travel with the team that went 11-0 during the 1954-55 season. Fred is retired in Kansas City while I am retired in Black Mountain, NC. We are both avid race walkers and really enjoyed the surprise meeting.
Don McMahill, 80 // North Carolina // Race Walk
My best memory is of the 1999 Games in Orlando at Disney World where I won Gold in pole vault and 4th in High Jump and Long Jump. In 2015, I won my second Gold in pole vault, 2nd in the long jump and 3rd in the high jump. I love competing in the Senior Games and do not plan to stop until I cannot jump any more.
John Sharp, 81 // Indiana // Track & Field
In 2013, I came home with a Gold in the long jump, a Silver in the high jump and a Silver in the triple jump. I was asked to carry the Arkansas flag in the opening ceremonies and carried the torch to open the Arkansas Senior Olympics in 2014. I was also recognized as the Athlete of the Month in June in the National Senior Games newsletter. The Cleveland Games were the most memorable for me because I felt like I represented Arkansas well. I knew from then on I was hooked on the National Senior Games.
Michele Brown, 57 // Arkansas // Track & Field
During the 2011 National Senior Games in Houston, I had the honor of carrying the Massachusetts flag with my friend Harriet at the Celebration of Athletes. I discovered Harriet had never won a medal or ribbon. We are in the same age group, and it wasn't until the 2013 Cleveland Games that she earned two ribbons for the first time. Harriet is currently in a nursing home with diabetes, Parkinson's disease and dementia. We brought her a 2016 Massachusetts State Games T-shirt and a gold medal for her to wear in the nursing home.
Amy Hicks, 83 // Massachusetts // Track & Field, Swimming
Just before the 2009 National Senior Games I learned the 2013 Games would be in Cleveland. When I found that Busbey Natatorium would be the swimming venue, I was in heaven. It was in Fenn Tower, directly across from Busbey Natatorium, where I began my competitive efforts. The natatorium is named for my childhood coach, Bob Busbey, and I earned two degrees from Cleveland State University! It was a long training road toward that 2013 competition to come back from a 40-year competitive swimming break, but I think I would have made Coach Busbey proud because I medaled in most of my events. It was a wonderful experience! Who says you can't go home?
Elizabeth Kassen, 64 // Washington // Swimming
My second National Senior Games was in Pittsburgh in 2005. I’m blind, and my husband Turner was helping me get around. We somehow ended up behind the natatorium and he couldn’t see how to get in. He said, “Wait here, Vivian, I’ll find the door.” I waited and waited, and then started to worry about missing my swimming event. I reached around on the wall and found a window that was cracked open. I somehow climbed through and fell in on my rear. I did make it to my swim on time!
Vivian Stancil, 70 // California // Swimming
My first National Senior Games were in 2015, and I was thrilled to be there! Unfortunately, I got a call the day before playing that my partner could not attend because of injury. It looked like I would not be able to participate. Then, the director scrambled and found a player (Bill Regan) who was without a partner too. We started playing, despite thinking we would not win a match as we had never met. And I had to play in a younger age bracket. We lost early and dropped into the loser’s bracket. But then, we won some tough matches...and finally won Bronze! I also won bronze in Singles and 7th in Mixed. The highlight was the surprise bronze win with my new friend and partner. Many thanks for the extra effort made by director Roger Workman and all the great Senior Games workers!
Dick Johnson, 76 // Idaho // Pickle Ball
1989 St. Louis
My sister and I played mixed tennis in 1988 and qualified for the 1989 Games in St. Louis. We played two detectives who told us if we beat them that we could receive some unusually harsh tickets… We did beat them, and they said they would tear up the tickets!
Sam Padfield, 91 // Arkansas // Tennis
2003 Hampton Roads
In 2002, my dad and WWII veteran, Charlie Martin, decided to play shuffleboard. He practiced like crazy, and the next year he picked up a silver medal at Nationals at the age of 86. In the following eight years, he came in first or second in both state singles and doubles. I joined him in 2004, because if I had to help him make a trip, I might as well play too. For practice, we recruited a friend who became very good. During the 2011 Houston National Senior Games, at the age of 95, my dad’s friend beat him in the final frame. The following month at New Mexico Senior Olympics, I watched in admiration as Charlie played error free attack shuffleboard and practically demolished his doubles opponent during the finals. It was his last game as he passed away in 2012. He is missed, especially by our opponents.
Larry Martin, 74 // New Mexico // Shuffleboard
I am a Pittsburgh Pirate fan from way back. I listened to Bob Prince on the radio and have been to baseball games at Forbes Field many times. After the badminton competition at the 2005 National Senior Games, despite the heat, I wanted to find home plate preserved where it originally was at Bouquet and Sennot Streets. I set out on my quest, found it, and stood there reverent looking at the cleat marks of Murtaugh, Mazeroski, and Clemente, remembering the glory days. I then walked to Clemente Dr. and stood at the original centerfield wall. A home run!
Robert Ericson, 74 // Nebraska // Badminton
I thought the 2015 National Senior Games in Minneapolis would be my last due to my age. But as I approached to sign in, the young man checking us in asked, “Do you know how old the lady ahead of you is?” I said no, and he answered 100! I thought to myself, this might not be my last!
Joan Kalfahs, 83 // Arizona // Badminton
I qualified for the 2011 Houston Games five months after a major surgery. I was so excited to attend with my three kids and grandkids. I left Houston with two ribbons, one medal and a knee injury. I also left with a greater desire to continue competing. Five years later, I am on the board as vice-president of the Oklahoma State Games!
Regina Stewart, 60 // Oklahoma // Track & Field
2009 Palo Alto
I attended my first National Senior Games in 2009 as a travel partner for a friend because none of her family could attend. I could not participate due to my work schedule as a special education teacher at the time of qualifications. But attending those games made me realize that once I retired that spring, I needed to get involved in the National Senior Games. I had always been active in sports, but arthritic knees and feet had stopped me from playing the things I loved. So, I went to our local senior center and began playing shuffleboard. I went to the 2011 Games in Houston with my friend Monica Horstman, a bowler. Shortly after those Games, she had three back surgeries and could no longer bowl. She joined me in shuffleboard and we played singles and were doubles partners in Cleveland. We played again in Minneapolis. We are looking forward to a shorter drive to Birmingham in 2017. Why am I so excited about being able to play shuffleboard? Because I love the competition and it is the only active sport I can still do. I'm so thankful for the National Senior Games and the opportunity to participate.
Judy Campbell, 67 // Indiana // Shuffleboard
During my first National Senior Games, we marched into the Citrus Bowl. I was standing at the entrance to the stadium when the announcer said, "And from the great state of New Jersey we have 250 athletes." My 63-year-old heart was about ready to burst. I now know how much younger athletes feel when they march into their opening night venue. My team lost all three games we played, but that only made me want to go again. I took my own teams four times and came home with three Gold and one Silver medal. It is now time for me to pass the torch to the next generation. Thanks for making me feel young again.
Charlie Mandrik, 80 // New Jersey // Softball
“We didn’t know we were making memories…. We just knew we were having fun!” I’m not sure who said that, but that is definitely how I feel about my participation with NSGA. I am lucky to be part of a wonderful group of people who love to compete, travel, and forge new friendships. Cleveland was my first games and I had no idea what to expect. When I got the postcard in the mail that I qualified for the National Senior Games, I was excited. Cleveland turned out to be a wonderful experience. I met many amazing people. My best memory was watching some triathletes jump in the pool to compete in swimming events after completing the triathlon! I was amazed because I’m not sure I would have been able to move after a triathlon. My boyfriend and I went to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with the Rolling Stones as the featured exhibit. We found some interesting restaurants and bars, and I won $500 at the casino downtown. Overall, we had a wonderful time. Although I haven’t started researching the places we’ll see, the training part is underway. Congratulations NSGA on 30 years and hopefully I will be sharing my stories again in another 30 years!
Mary Medina, 54 // Pennsylvania // Swimming
Many fond memories can be summarized in one event. At the 2015 National Senior Games in Minneapolis, I had five of my nine grandchildren (plus husband, son and daughter-in-law) with me to see our team compete. One granddaughter was even drafted to help at the scorer's table when the staff was shorthanded. It was a life-moment when I received hugs from each "grand" and heard "I love you and am proud of you, KK!" I love basketball, my Tennessee state championship team the Dinos, and all my Senior Olympics friends. It is a real blessing to have fun playing basketball at this time in life and set an example for my family about the benefits of staying active.
Karen Thrasher, 68 // Tennessee // Basketball
1987 St. Louis
I never realized that I watched the first [National] Senior Games in St. Louis. That year, I was in town for a business conference and heard about the [National] Senior Games, so I spent an extra day there just having the greatest time watching folks enjoying themselves regardless of whether they were top athletes or wheelchair-based competitors playing horseshoes! This year I find myself entered to play pickleball in Birmingham where I lived for 15 years. It would appear I just took a bit longer than most seniors to finally compete!
Pete Cross, 85 // Virginia // Pickleball
My favorite memory is when a group of swimmers posed with this patriotic volunteer for this photo. The 2015 meet was held over the July 4th holiday. We had admired his attire and found time between events and awards ceremonies to take the picture. Pictured are Corinne Lipnick (Florida), J. Rosey Rosander (Shuffleboard, Utah and Swimming volunteer), Robin Oliver in black swim cap (Oklahoma), myself-Paula Cunio in Gophers T-shirt (Florida) and Nancy Curran in pink (New Hampshire). The four female swimmers met during the 50-54 competition races and became fast friends. We remain in contact and are looking forward to seeing each other again at the 2017 Games in Birmingham!
Paula Cunio, 55 // Florida // Swimming
Astronaut Launches Torch: The Torch Relay Across Texas was the most ambitious torch activity ever conducted for a National Senior Games, visiting eight cities and involving over 700 athletes and guests as torch bearers. The tour began with a “Torch Launch” held at Rocket Park adjacent to the Johnson Space Center. I organized this relay tour, and badly wanted an astronaut to run the first lap around the Saturn V rocket display at the park. We hit the jackpot when Apollo 7 Commander Walt Cunningham eagerly accepted our invitation, saying, “I rode that torch! I’d love to run around the rocket, but only if my wife Dot can run the lap with me.” The tour was a great success and generated a lot of hometown news stories that raised awareness for Senior Games well beyond Houston. I’m grateful for the opportunity to do the project, because that’s how NSGA became familiar with my work and added me to the staff in 2013.
Del Moon // Florida // NSGA Staff
1995 San Antonio
At my first Games in San Antonio, Texas, we were in the Alamo Bowl standing with all the states. When the jets flew over, I got the most awesome feeling I was doing something special. I have never forgotten that feeling, and it happens every time I go to the Games. I have won a medal and several ribbons since.
Donna Grey-Hubbard, 77 // South Carolina // Basketball & Bowling
2009 Palo Alto
Delaware is the smallest state with the biggest heart! After the Delaware Diamonds softball team qualified for the 2009 Palo Alto National Senior Games, 20+ team members got together and raised money to take the whole team. Support came from the entire state! They needed more than $10,000 and raised more to pay for flights, hotel and food. AstraZeneca, a sponsor of The Games, joined in and highlighted player Susan Brooker’s journey to lose weight in order to play. AstraZeneca filmed her journey and posted it online and at The Games. The head of the firm made mention of the team’s journey and Susan at the opening night of The Games. Even though the team did not bring home the gold, their experience went well beyond competition. Some members of the team had never been on an airplane or traveled out of the state. The journey sometimes has nothing to do with medals or competition, but the journey itself!
Susan Brooker, 67 // Delaware // Softball
1987 St. Louis
I attended the 1987 St. Louis Games for my job with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch sports department. One of our special projects was the first U.S. [National] Senior Games. I volunteered to enter all of the results for the Games for use by various media. Among the places they showed up was an entire page in the USA Today sports section. Not only did I get to work with journalists covering the Games, but I got to see close up and sometimes talk to athletes such as Olympian Helen Stephens, who won the women’s 100M dash in front of Adolf Hitler at the 1936 Summer Olympics. I still have my media badge for the event, No. 0255. In 2013, I had the further privilege of competing at the Cleveland Games in the 50-54 50M Dash. I stumbled out of the blocks and finished last in my heat, but the experience was great.
Michael Fatchett, 55 // Missouri // Track
In 2011, we went to the Houston Games with no coach and one player from another state. We fought hard and won the gold medal for Division I. In 2015, we again had no coach. Our best shooter couldn't come at the last minute in order to care for her mother who fell and broke her hip. We only had one sub, a woman who volunteered to play down from an older age group. Again, we fought hard. A couple of early losses put us into Division II. We played 10 games over three days (four of them on the last day). Another great shooter had booked to fly home thinking we would be finished by then so was not there for the final medal game. We were very happy to come away with the silver medal after all we had been through.
Tina Quick, 60 // Massachusetts // Basketball
The most inspiring moment for me was just being a part of The Games with more than 10,000 athletes from all around the country in Disney’s beautiful Wide World of Sports. Even though I didn't come away with any medals, just participating is a memory that I will never forget.
Carolyn Duest, 72 // Maine // Horseshoes
During the 2013 Games in Cleveland, I was to play three badminton matches in the downtown convention center beginning at 9 a.m., then for a 1:30 p.m. tennis match 30 miles away. It was a Saturday and not much traffic, so my tennis partner, June, and I arrived early. However, it was raining and the streets were blocked for a major cycling event. We couldn't find a parking spot anywhere near the convention center. We finally got into a parking garage about six blocks away and ran in the rain to the convention center. I played two matches and was to play for third in mixed doubles at 11:30 a.m., which was really cutting it close to make the tennis match. After winning the close match, I grabbed my stuff and ran to the parking garage, where we couldn't find the car. We figured out it was the wrong garage and found the right one another two blocks away. Finally on the road, we made it to tennis at 1:35 p.m., in record time… and the other team didn't show up, defaulting to us. This put us into the finals of the consolation portion of the tournament Sunday, but that morning my back went out. I tried to play but couldn't, so we had to retire after losing five straight lousy games. The bad news was not over, however. After arriving at the Las Vegas airport, we discovered valet parking crashed June’s car into another car. The headlight glass was broken, but luckily the headlights worked as it was around midnight by this time and we were tired! Over all, we had a good, if somewhat hectic, time.
Nedra Paschal, 76 // Nevada // Tennis & Pickleball
2001 Baton Rouge
I came to my first National Senior Games in 2001 hoping to earn just one ribbon in any of the many swimming and track and field events I was competing in. I swam as fast as I could in my first swimming event. I did not even know how many ribbons they gave out, and then realized I earned a 6th place ribbon in my first national event, how exciting! I went home very happy and proud. I have competed in every National Senior Games since then and have earned many ribbons, medals and awards at the local, state and national level to show my granddaughters. It is just as exciting earning ribbons and medals now as it was that very first time. Another thrilling moment was carrying the Missouri flag in 2007 and 2015 at the Celebration of Athletes Ceremony. I look forward to what I will do next and traveling the country to new and different places. I may not be getting faster, higher, stronger as I get older, but I am doing my personal best. Thank you for keeping the excitement in my game of life. Living a healthy and happy life is not a spectator sport. Get in the game and stay in the game. To live a healthy life, you must first choose to participate by being active daily, making healthy food choices, getting quality sleep and coping with life’s trials, tribulations and triumphs.
Jane Kaiser, 68 // Missouri // Track & Field & Swimming
My favorite memory of the Games is from 2011 in Houston, my first time to participate. My partner, Cheryl Polak, and I set a record for the 50-55 age division. We won a gold medal, which was presented to me by my son. Needless to say, it ranks at the top of my bowling memories!