At 73, mother learns to swim before move to Florida

Dawn Burns teaches her 73-year-old mother to float, backstroke and swim. Burns' parents are moving to Florida, and her mother was ready to learn how to swim. Contributed
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Dawn Burns teaches her 73-year-old mother to float, backstroke and swim. Burns' parents are moving to Florida, and her mother was ready to learn how to swim. Contributed

‘Building her confidence’ part of process, says daughter.

Hoa Dupree, 73, has been afraid of water, even when one of her daughters tried to teach her to swim 20 years ago. “But she was so terrified that she couldn’t finish,” said another daughter, Dawn Burns, Head Lifesaving Instructor for Dayton’s Parks & Recreation Department, whose job includes teaching adults to swim.

Burns and her sister swam competitively for the Wright Patterson Flying Fish swim team from age 9 through high school. “Our parents came to all of our competitions, and Mom worked the concession stand while Dad, who retired from WPAFB as a Navy lieutenant commander, officiated; but Mom was afraid to swim,” she says.

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Hao Dupree smiles as she finishes swimming lessons with her daughter, Dawn Burns. “We made sure both of our daughters got in the water at 2 and learned to swim, but I was terrified,” Dupree says. “Now, I wish I’d been swimming when I was younger, but this was my second chance.” Contributed

Hao Dupree smiles as she finishes swimming lessons with her daughter, Dawn Burns. “We made sure both of our daughters got in the water at 2 and learned to swim, but I was terrified,” Dupree says. “Now, I wish I’d been swimming when I was younger, but this was my second chance.” Contributed
Caption
Hao Dupree smiles as she finishes swimming lessons with her daughter, Dawn Burns. “We made sure both of our daughters got in the water at 2 and learned to swim, but I was terrified,” Dupree says. “Now, I wish I’d been swimming when I was younger, but this was my second chance.” Contributed

“Mom and Dad met each other when he was stationed in Vietnam, and she was the secretary in his office – they fell in love and have been married for 50 years. But now, they’ve sold their Fairborn home and are moving to the Villages in Florida, so she wanted to learn to swim. But she was still terrified.”

Dupree was finally motivated when Dawn, 47, described her success with a 76-year-old just learning to swim. “Mom said ‘I’m going to do it!’,” and she started her lessons the next day.

“At first, I walked her through what I wanted her to do, showed her how to put her face in the water and hold her breath. Eventually, as she moved into the water without me, she used the water pole to hold onto, then lifted her legs and pushed away.

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“She learned how to trust the water, a huge feat for her, and I had her in the deep end, a big step for her, by her third or fourth lesson. She’s doing really well, is able to swim freestyle for half the pool, about 20 meters. When she gets tired, she can roll onto her back and swim the backstroke. She’s done that many times back and forth, about 300 meters.”

Now, after two lessons a week for five weeks, her mother is relaxed in the water, can swim, then roll over onto her back in the deep end with just a noodle supporting her. “She’s so relaxed that she looks like she’s sleeping,” says Burns, “but now she’s more focused on endurance.”

“At first, I didn’t want to get my head in the water,” said Dupree. “I’ve always been terrified of the water, and, in our first class, she had to keep reminding me that she was there, while I said ‘I’m going to drown.’”

“I’m thankful she was so patient with me, because she’s taught me how to float, blow bubbles, and now, I’m very comfortable in the water, relaxing instead of fighting.”

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Her husband, Daniel, escorts her to Dabney Pool on Princeton Drive in northwest Dayton for her lessons and got in the pool with her a few times, “but I prefer walking, so I usually just walk in the neighborhood while she had her lesson,” he said.

“I’m impressed with her success. She’s always wanted to swim, and tried before, but she was serious this time. I’m happy for her because she does so many things well, but swimming was something that mystified her. I’m really proud of her, that she stuck with it this time.”

According to Burns , the Villages’ pools are only about 4 feet deep, so there’s no fear of her drowning there now, “but she’s been on a boat and needs to swim in case of an accident. Now, she can relax in the water if something happens - it was just a process of building her confidence.”

Her mother agrees. “We made sure both of our daughters got in the water at 2 and learned to swim, but I was terrified,” she said. “Now, I wish I’d been swimming when I was younger, but this was my second chance.”

Contact this writer at virgburroughs@gmail.com.

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