New England Master Esther Lyman of Londonderry, NH, lives by her credo, "Whatever direction you take in life, be excellent at what you do." Faithfully following that credo Esther has been of enormous benefit to many organizations and activities—none more so than her favorite—Masters swimming.
Esther joined New England Masters late in 1974, worked out three to four times a week and took part in several meets a month. Her NEM swimming career produced the usual bouquet of blue, red and yellow ribbons and medals. However Esther's attitude was "It isn't whether you win or lose, it's whether you show up". She soon started "giving back" to the sport, becoming assistant to then newsletter editor Jim Edwards and was club secretary for a term. During this period she worked 48 hours a week, raised three teenagers, earned a B.S. with High Honors in computer science. In 1984 she went to work for a major computer firm.
Raised in Denmark, her introduction to swimming was in the salty, pungent waters of Copenhagen Harbor. After marriage to a US serviceman in 1954 when she was pursuing a career in language translation, she relocated to he United States, raising her children intermittent with leadership in Girl Scouting and teaching adult and pre-school swimming at the YWCA in Nashua, N.H.
Esther took over New England Top Ten Times at a time when several people had been trying to patch it back together. After bringing the job "up to snuff" she continued to maintain Short Course Yards. She then searched back to 1972, "an utterly tedious and time consuming job" to create an All Time Top Ten for Long Course Meters and then an All Time New England list for the One Hour Swim. Fellow NEM Ed Gendreau took on the task for Short Course Meters.
In mid-1998 the New England LMSC was in need of a major tune-up. The Interim Chair, John Woods of Maine, asked Esther to serve as New England's first Vice-Chair. She brought her usual thoroughness to the task, becoming expert on each of the LMSC's areas of responsibility. She suggested excellent candidates to fill vacancies that occurred, solving problems and offering suggestions. Feeling her mission as Vice-Chair accomplished, Esther returned to her Top Ten responsibilities. The minutes of October 1998 Annual Meeting noted special thanks to Esther Lyman for invaluable services during this transition.
For her Top Ten endeavors, Esther created a database to store all old times, into which meet results could be added electronically. It contains the current personal best times of all swimmers, and the current Top Ten line-up. It can automatically identify and qualify times for submission for national Top Ten. Times for New England swimmers are electronically downloaded from national results. New national and world records are added to the database as an upper limit for comparison, and prior years' top ten last places as a lower limit. The database does most of the selecting once the times are in the system. It is capable of providing similar services to individual clubs such as Maine Masters.
In her spare time Esther has been working with Carl House and others on the National Archives project. The goal is to identify birthdates and club affiliations from early Top Tens and All-Americans, and to develop a permanent type of identifier for all swimmers to unify each swimmer's data and help with "quality control" of the web pages.
Masters swimming continues its phenomenal growth because the Esther Lymans "just show up" and are excellent in what they do.
Honoring Esther Lyman
In 1986, my family moved to Londonderry, N.H., the same town where Esther lived. Not long after we moved in, she arrived with brochures to the YMCAs and YWCAs in the area. I guess she didn’t want me to be a fish out of water.
Over the years, Esther volunteered for a number of positions that involved rather tedious responsibilities at both the club and regional levels: New England Masters and New England Local Masters Swimming Committee, including repairing our Top 10 list for short course yards, creating an All Time Top 10 list for long course meters and the One-Hour Swim. She served for a number of years as an assistant to our NEM News Editor and also as the vice chair of the LMSC. In each of these positions she brought her usual thoroughness to the task at hand, becoming expert on each of the responsibilities and then smartly finding someone qualified to take over.
In 1996, U.S. Masters Swimming hired me as their executive secretary and in 1999, with our membership at 38,000, I was given the additional responsibility of bringing the USMS membership registration process in house. I needed to hire a database administrator and the first person I thought of was Esther. I knew she would be perfect. When I called her, she thought about it for a moment and said, “Yes, I think I would like to do this.”
USMS couldn’t have a hired a better person. Over the last 10 years, as our membership has grown to over 55,000, Esther was hard working, meticulous, patient, flexible and very knowledgeable when it came to the management of data. If there was something she didn’t know, she researched to find the answer. If something didn’t look quite right or she thought there was a better way of doing it, she experimented until she figured it out.
Esther definitely had an understanding of the importance of the information she maintained, what its potential uses were and why it had to be up-to-date, correct and available. She took tremendous pride in her work and was very much appreciated by our members, local registrars, committees and Board of Directors.
After the first year, Esther wrote, “It took a great deal of courage all around to strike into this unknown territory—bringing the function in house—but we all survived and can all take credit that the results speak for themselves, including all the registrars who have given patiently of their time and effort and all deserve a medal! Not all gold, but no DQs either.”
Upon learning of Esther’s passing, some of our volunteers have written to tell us how much they will miss her:
"It took Esther and me two years to gather membership data for Illinois members so we were able to recognize Masters swimmers for their years of participation. Illinois now honors and recognizes swimmers for this achievement with an anniversary award, some who have been members for over 25 years. Esther is the person who made this happen." Nadine Day, USMS VP of Member Services
"Esther was always extremely sweet and helpful to me with USMS registration issues over the years. I remember how much she helped me with the registration software, and I couldn't have imagined getting through some difficult processing issues without her assistance. I will miss her and am grateful to have known her." Joe Skoski, Allegheny Mountain Registrar
"Esther was a great resource and always had the information I needed. I enjoyed working with her and respected her contributions to Masters swimming. Her efforts made a difference and left a positive impact on those of us who worked with her." Doug Adamavich, LMSC Development Committee Chair
"Esther was a great help to me when I first became registrar for South Dakota. I spoke to her on the phone many times and she was really a great help. She was also a real character." Mary Turner, South Dakota Registrar
"One of the most important and fun things I've ever done was to work with some key people, including Esther to begin the historical archives of USMS. We worked very hard, ruffled a few feathers, and did good work. I'm deeply grateful for the opportunity to have worked with Esther and she will always be very close to my heart. Thank you, Esther, for your talent, commitment and steadfastness." Carl House, USMS History & Archives
"Esther was invaluable to the History and Archives Committee. She was always very quick to help with any problem. We will miss her greatly." Meegan Wilson, USMS History & Archives Chair
"How will we ever replace her—she is indispensible!" Sally Dillon, USMS Recognition and Awards Chair
"Esther was always there for me over the past 10 years. She always had a kind word and patiently helped me with all my errors." Laura Wright, Ohio Registrar
"Her pleasant demeanor and sharp competency will be missed." Jerry Clark, USMS Member
"I was just thinking about her a lot last week, wondering where she was and what she was doing. She was an amazing woman and very technologically advanced. The details in her reports always amazed me. She had a great sense of humor, which I loved." Meredith Moore, Florida Registrar
"Esther obviously loved history. She was the caretaker for 40 years' worth of member history for U.S. Masters Swimming. She was the authority on who had been, or had not been, a member of our organization. Esther's word was the final word on that topic. Esther will continue to work with Tracy and me on a daily basis. She frequently edited member records in our online database. Not a day goes by that I don't see a note somewhere, written by Esther Lyman. Her witty sense of humor occasionally came through in these notes. I'm sure she will continue to provide us with chuckles for a long time to come." Anna Lea Matysek, USMS Membership Coordinator
A few years ago, Esther gave me a bell as a Christmas gift. I can’t remember exactly what she wrote in the card but it was something like, “Just ring when you need me.”
Esther, the USMS family will miss you!