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Remembering Elsa Peacock Mattila

Started late, but excelled at 400 IM

Ronnie Kamphausen | March 25, 2002

Elsa Peacock Mattila - Elsa came to Masters swimming at the urging of John Higgins, the renowned Coach of the Naval Academy, Olympian and Masters swimmer. She lived in Annapolis, Md., at the time, and began swimming for fitness at the Academy following retirement. Elsa threw her heart and soul into every thing she undertook, and soon it became apparent that Elsa would excel in swimming. She swam from her late sixties through her eighties as a distinguished IM, fly and breaststroke champion. In 1986, she was awarded the Bill Yorzyk award for the outstanding 400 IM of that year.

Elsa competed on the DC Masters swim team and traveled to national meets often in the company of teammate, Jayne Bruner. Carol Chidester, a prominent Maryland Masters backstroker, was a good friend and also accompanied Elsa to regional meets. When Carol was suffering from breast cancer a few years ago, she told Elsa she'd save a lane for her to swim in Heaven. Elsa died last year following a stroke (the bad kind). No doubt she and Carol are churning up a heavenly storm as Carol had promised.

Elsa came by her athleticism naturally. She came from a family of athletes, and sportsmen/women. She studied physical education in college at Russell Sage, and later at New York University where she received a Masters degree. She served as an officer in the Waves during WWII, stationed in Hawaii. Following the war, she taught at the University of Hawaii. It was there, in Hawaii, where she met her husband, Matt, who was in the Coast Guard as Captain of the Port in Honolulu. They lived on the island for his tour of duty, and had two sons, Skip and Matey. (So you see by the selection of their names, the sea was in their blood!) The family followed Matt's many assignments that included Connecticut, Alaska and finally Maryland. At one time, Matt was Captain of the Coast Guard's training ship, the Eagle. Elsa also taught physical education at Marjorie Webster Junior College prior to retirement. Her son, Skip, is a full time whale researcher.

Elsa always had a creative flair. Her hands were always making dried wreathes of cones, flower arrangements or knitting. She was active in her local Quaker Meeting, helping to secure property, build a meetinghouse and plant a garden. Matt also used his creative skills in these endeavors.

Elsa should be remembered for entering the sport of swimming at a relatively late stage in her life. Her accomplishments caught the attention of Sports Illustrated who selected her for their "Faces in the Crowd" in 1986. She was an excellent teammate, always a positive thinker, and enjoyed the camaraderie of swimming. She is deeply missed by all who knew her special qualities.

 

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