Learned to swim at age 83
Janet Lemp of Buffalo accomplished a goal of 21 laps only one year after her first swimming lesson
By Ed DuBois
At almost 83 years old last year, Janet Lemp had never learned to swim. She said she was afraid to get her face in the water, and even though she taught water aerobics seven years, she never went out of the shallow end of the pool.
For her 83rd birthday, Janet decided enough was enough. She signed up for swimming lessons with Rachel Busch at the fitness center in Buffalo, Fitness Evolution. Busch is the head coach of the Buffalo High School girls' swimming and diving team.
"She got me swimming before I ever knew it hit me," said Janet. "Rachel is patient and kind. She has a knack for teaching people how to swim."
One week was all it took. Janet was swimming after only three or four lessons.
Wanted to show her kids
"I set a goal," Janet recalled. "I wanted to swim 15 laps. That's close to half a mile. I wanted my kids to know I could still do something I never did before."
The whole family was at the pool last month on Aug. 25, the day before Janet's 84th birthday. They cheered her on as she set out to complete a newly revised goal of 21 laps. When she finished, she was delighted to hear she had actually completed 22 laps.
Her plan included seven freestyle laps, seven backstroke laps and seven freestyle laps.
"My kids and my grandkids were there cheering for me," Janet happily remembered.
"My son asked me if I could have done more. I said, 'Yes ... three maybe,'" she said.
Family members and a fitness center staff member posted photos on Facebook.
"My heart doctor is really proud of me," she joked.
Longtime fitness center member
Janet has been a member at the fitness center since the mid-1970s, she said. There was an interruption in 1986, when she and her husband, Bob, moved to Chicago. But they returned to Buffalo in 2001.
Bob worked in clothing sales. He passed away about five years ago. They had been married 59 years.
Janet is originally from Kentucky and still has a bit of a southern accent. She said her dad moved the family to Hamilton, Ohio, which is where Janet met Bob. They met in high school.
They raised four children, three boys and one girl. Janet said her daughter, Della, passed away due to cancer four years ago. Her sons include Jeff, who lives in Indiana, Shawn, a resident of Buffalo, and Robb, who lives in Illinois.
No pain in the water
Consistently showing up at the fitness center since 2001, Janet said the center has been very good to her.
"They have great water classes here for people my age. There is no pain when I am in the pool. The water classes are easy on the joints."
She swims and joins the classes three times a week. The water aerobics class usually includes around 20 people, and on Fridays, almost 30 people show up, Janet said.
She has not taught any classes since Bob died, but she enjoys being a participant.
"The classes are so good for people in my age group," she said.
Asked about a possible future goal, Janet said maybe someday she will try a mile, about 36 laps.
Who knows? She might even do it.
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