Tony has been swimming at the Y since the pool was built in 1954. He was the first to swim 50 miles in the pool, and continues to swim laps to this day, almost every day of the week. If he isn’t swimming in the pool, he is using the Wellness Center or socializing at the Y. When he isn’t at the restaurant, of course.
Allison has been swimming at the Y since she was an infant. She completed every level of the YMCA swim program, from "Mommy & Me” to becoming a lifeguard. She has even gone on to becoming a champion swimmer for Mount St. Mary College Knights. Swimming is very important to her and her entire family. The Y has made a tremendous and positive impact on all of their lives.
Swimming, for me, has been a life changer and the Y has been a large part of that story. I started swimming early in my life (57 years ago as a 5 year old child) at the Rye, NY YMCA.
Since then, aquatics have always been a big part of my life. Six years ago I was diagnosed with prostate cancer and I learned that cancer does not necessarily imply a loss of control of my destiny. Actually, the disease was a wakeup call for me to take responsibility and make positive choices. Robotic surgery took care of the cancer, but regaining health and fitness was up to me. My swimming ethos is now parallel with my life’s path; I swim through water like as I swim through my life. My desire is to be efficient and fly through both the water and life, streamlined and with ease. Life is greater than the time between birth and death, and swimming is more than moving through the water following the lane lines.
Wanting to give back to the sport and pay my life forward, I became Red Cross certified as a Lifeguard, Water Front Lifeguard and Water Safety Instructor. I have become a member of the United States Master Swimmers (USMS) organization. Last year, in the USMS Go The Distance program, I logged 273 miles and earned national rankings for multiple freestyle and breaststroke events. The Middletown Y pool is a place where I can experience joy and meaning as I train for fitness and prepare for future competitions in the New York Senior Games and Masters Swimming competitions. My goal is to participate in national level competitions as a healthy and vibrant older adult. The closest location with a Master Swimmers organization is at the Sussex New Jersey Y, I am currently trying to start a Master’s program here at the Middletown Y.
The Middletown Y is more than just another place to swim; the Y pool is a place where I share the zeal of my aquatic experiences with other swimmers. Although I do enjoy getting in a lane and swimming laps, a bigger part of my appreciation is the opportunity to share the knowledge and techniques learned. I have to admit that I get tremendous satisfaction helping others improve their swimming performance. Seeing the joy of other members improving their movement in the aquatic environment is the best return for the membership I can imagine.
Camaraderie, health and sharing are some of the benefits one receives as a swimmer here at the Middletown Y. I look forward to the new pool facility. I know there will be an increased ability for the membership to experience the passion for aquatics.
The Fiero Family
When Jeanne Skye brings her daughters Abigail and Rebecca to swim lessons at the YMCA of Middletown, she is perpetuating a family tradition; the twins Abigail and Rebecca, now eight years old, are the third generation of their family to swim in the 60-year-old pool, and the second generation to learn how to swim there.
The tradition began with Jeanne’s mother and father, Irene and Richard Fiero. The couple met in Europe during WWII; Irene was a native of Britain and Richard was a member of the American Air Force. After the war, Richard returned to the United States and wrote Irene, asking her to join him. She did. They purchased a house two blocks from the YMCA of Middletown, on Wilkins Avenue, where they raised six children. The story that follows is so awe-inspiring that this is not the first article to be written about the Fiero family. In fact, it is the third.
The Times Herald Record previously published two articles about the Fieros; the first was written because Irene had won five gold medals and Richard had won two silver and two bronze medals in the New York State Parks Senior Games at SUNY Cortland in June of 1994. At the time, Richard was 79 and Irene was 82. The second article was prompted eight years later when Irene won five gold medals in the Empire State Senior Games at Cortland at the age of 90.
Irene and Richard began swimming competitively in 1988, when they were respectively 75 and 73 years old. In addition to competing in the New York State Senior Games, Irene also competed in four national swim events: the 1989 Senior Olympic Games in St. Louis, MO, the 1991 Senior Games in Syracuse, NY, the 1993 Games in Baton Rouge, LA, and the 1995 Games in San Antonio, TX.
But even before they swam competitively, the couple had always shared a love of swimming, and they made sure to instill this love in their children. “Swimming was very important,” says Jeanne of her childhood.
Growing up two blocks from the Y made it easy for the Fieros to pursue their passion on a daily basis; Irene swam 22 laps at the Y every day while all six of her children learned to swim there. Gordon and Laurie Fiero, (now Laurie Bruntfield), were even on the YMCA children’s swim team. As they got older, the Fiero children attended the YMCA Summercamps, were camp counselors, and became certified lifeguards though the Y’s American Red Cross Certification program. Irene continued to swim her 22 daily laps throughout her life, up until her late 90s. She competed in her last Senior Olympic Games in 2008 when she was 96 years old; she won four gold medals in the ages 95-99 category. Jeanne recounts her mother always telling her and her siblings, “There’s nothing you can’t do, look at me.”
Jeanne Skye and two of her siblings, Gordon Fiero and Laurie Bruntfield, still live in the area and are still members of the Middletown YMCA. Laurie has followed in her parents’ footsteps and has been competing in the Senior Olympic Games for ten years, and was most recently there this past June. Jeanne now uses swimming as a way to spend time with her own children who attend swim lessons and family swim at the Y.
Sadly, Irene passed in 2009, and Richard before her, but their children have found a way to honor their parent’s memory, as well as their love of swimming; this summer, all six of the Fiero children are pitching in to purchase a tile from the Save the Last Lap Campaign, a fundraiser to replace the aging pool, with their parents’ names inscribed on it. The tile will be built into the wall that overlooks the new swimming pool when they renovate in 2015. The tile will ensure that Richard and Irene Fiero will be as permanent a part of the new pool as they were the original.