In the Swim of Things

Tue, 2012-07-24 10:19 -- univcomm
The backstroke, the breaststroke, the sidestroke, the crawl. When it comes to a swimming style, Elbridge MacKenzie enjoys all of them. Enjoys them so much, in fact, that the Anderson man and retired educator recently reached the 1,000-mile marker on the log sheet at Anderson University’s natatorium. He’s one of only five to accomplish that feat, but that’s not what’s so impressive. At 85, MacKenzie is the natatorium’s oldest swimmer.

“That’s the reason I’m kind of a rarity. A lot of my friends here are a lot younger, maybe in their 50s or 40s,” he said. “They could be my kids. Some of the swimmers could even be my grandchildren.” MacKenzie, former chair of the university’s education department and a veteran of both World War II and the Korean War, has been swimming at the campus pool since it opened in 1972.

Sure, he’s got his heart trouble. Sure, he’s got diabetes. But nothing stops this feisty man from slipping on his trunks and goggles and taking his daily dip. The same goes for his 78-year-old wife, Marie, who has logged about 700 miles.

Marie started swimming regularly when she retired from Anderson public school system after 28 years.

“I’ve swam all my life,” the former schoolteacher said. “I started when I was just very small. My mother and grandmother swam. It’s just natural.”

Each swim about a quarter or half mile a day. One mile equals 36 laps. MacKenzie said he doesn’t swim fast, and he likes to mix up his strokes so different muscles get used.

They also walk several times a week.

“We both walk. In good weather, we walk around our condominium. In bad weather, we walk down at the mall,” MacKenzie said.

Jim Scott, natatorium director for the past 11 years, hails the duo as “remarkable,” not only for their athletic prowess but also for their friendly demeanor. He said they’ve won the hearts of the pool staff.

Take lifeguard Brett Spangler, for instance. The AU sophomore can remember when he met MacKenzie this past summer.

“When I started working here, the first day, he was swimming laps. He got out of the pool and walked up to me and…”

Spangler made a spraying gesture with his hands.

“He splashed me.”

Spangler said MacKenzie then introduced himself.

“He’s addressed me by my first name ever since then,” he said. “It’s amazing. He’s a very personable fella.”

Both MacKenzie and his wife said they love being around young people. They lived in a Florida retirement home for three years, but moved back to Anderson for its more youthful energy.

“Everybody was old,” MacKenzie said. “I couldn’t stand it. I had to come back here and be around young people.”

Although his body reminds him from time to time, MacKenzie said he doesn’t feel his age. And he certainly doesn’t expect to quit swimming anytime soon.

“It’s a lot of fun. It’s good exercise. I try to keep fit,” he said. “We’re going to keep going as long as we can.” ---Jenna McKnight is a staff reporter for the Anderson Herald-Bulletin.