Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Florence woman, 89,
savors morning swim



By Shannon Russell
Enquirer staff writer

Mary Margaret De Lotell, of Florence, who will turn 90 in December, in the pool at the Boone County Community and Recreation Center.
(Patrick Reddy/The Enquirer)
FLORENCE - Mary Margaret De Lotell awakes at 4:15 a.m. every day. She drives to the Boone County Community and Recreation Center here, slips on her swimsuit and eases into the pool's first lane five days a week.

De Lotell, just weeks shy of her 90th birthday, can't imagine starting a day without her 25-year exercise routine.

"If I miss a day, I can tell it. I enjoy getting in the water - it keeps me loose and limber," said De Lotell, a Florence resident. "I know at the end of the day I've done the best I can for myself."

The petite, snow-haired mother of four and grandmother of eight doesn't think she's anything special. But friends and center employees think otherwise.

"The idea that she's almost 90 and doing this is amazing - just amazing," said Kathy Krechting, who works at the center's front desk.

The diligent swimmer arrives like clockwork for two hours of lap swimming and recovery in the sauna. She's also the unofficial leader of the "Morning Mermaids," an informal group of 20-odd early morning swimmers.

De Lotell swims about 20 laps in 40 minutes, alternating between backstroke and sidestroke. She doesn't do freestyle because she has a touch of emphysema and is uncomfortable submerging her face. Other health risks haven't deterred her from swimming, either.

In 1990, she had a left hip replacement - but was in the water six weeks later. A year ago, she was diagnosed with an aortic aneurysm, a potentially serious condition.

But De Lotell remains unfazed. She would rather stay active, she said, than lounge around and be cautious.

Verona resident Lori Hopkins describes De Lotell as the Merry Mermaids' glue. Her dedication, discipline and consistency are inspirational for all the swimmers, she said. There's just one caveat: Don't try to swim in her lane.

"The first lane is her lane," Hopkins said. "She'll give you a hard time. She's feisty."

E-mail srussell@enquirer.com




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