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by Jae Howell

May 28, 2005

Opened a swim school

Jae Howell, in her own words: "I began my swimming career with the help of the lifeguards at Cliffwood Beach, N.J., when I was two years old. Although there was no competitive swimming in the area, swimming was the most interesting activity in my life. My father passed away when I was seven and we moved many times from one city to another. When I was eleven, we lived in Jersey City where I had a glorious year of competition and also had the opportunity to teach swimming to pay for my team membership.

At the age of nineteen I enlisted in one of the first groups of WAVES in World War II, and spent several months teaching swimming at Iowa Teacher's College.

After nine years of marriage with a husband suffering from war injuries, I convinced him to install a swimming pool, obtain a land use permit, and open a swim school. When my husband passed away a year later, my swim school was fairly well established. I noticed an article about a series of evening synchronized swimming lessons taught by Norma Olsen at the Athens Athletic Club in Oakland. I attended five lessons with my daughter Dianne, who was nine, and two other students. I had to squeeze this in between swimming lessons, which was my primary income.

A year and a half later, when Senior National Synchronized Swimming Championships were held in Long Beach, they added an "11 and under" National Solo Championship event. Dianne, an unknown contestant, won the event.

Norma Olsen, Zoe Ann Olsen's mother, convinced Dianne and me to join a group of approximately a dozen swimmers to introduce, train and teach synchronized swimming throughout eight European countries. Norma told me to write a special routine for Copenhagen and also to swim in it with the young swimmers. I'm thankful it wasn't filmed.

In Spain, I was told to work with Marian Whitner of the Athens Athletic Club and my daughter, Dianne. They won the International Duet Competition within four years. My "A" team (Howell Swim Club), which included both my daughters Dianne and Debbe along with Kathy Craig, Melinda Sellers, Kathy Knibbe and Gail Gardner won the Junior Nationals team competition in 1964. Debbe and Kathy Craig won Junior National duets in 1964 and Dianne and Melinda Sellers won Junior National duets in 1966.

A few years later, I was going to move back East and dissolved the team. Kay Valeen, coach of the Santa Clara Swim Club, inherited Dianne Howell, Melinda Sellers and Kathy Craig. They finally broke into the San Francisco Marionettes six-year streak of Senior National Team Champions in 1968. Then my "B" team, Gail Johnson Pucci and Gail Gardner Emery, both eventually coached the Walnut Creek Aquanuts and the US Olympic team for several years.

During a tour of Europe prior to the Rome Olympics, I met Ella Peckham who spoke about her many accomplishments. Several years later I entered my first Masters swim meet and absolutely loved it. I had to wait a few years until I retired, since I worked a sixty-hour week. This was mainly treading water while I was teaching with little time to swim. Fortunately, the Walnut Creek team won gold in both free and medley relays at the World Masters Games in Toronto the second year I was swimming. Over the years, I have acquired national championships over 20 times and All-American a dozen times. That's all gravy compared to the fabulous people I've met. I am an extremely fortunate person."