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 // New England // 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
More to Come!
More Memories to Come! Check back on this page for monthly additions through May 2017.
NSGA Headquarters // Louisiana // 30th Anniversary
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!