Upper Arlington News

Octogenarian takes plunge to close UA pool

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One of central Ohio's senior swimmers lamented the closing of her neighborhood swimming pool last weekend, but not before planning another high time on the high dive.

At age 80, Dorothy Cameron of Upper Arlington is among her community's ... (ahem) ... most experienced aquatics enthusiasts.

Over her 49 years in UA, she's spent the majority of summer afternoons swimming laps at Devon Pool and diving from the pool's three-meter (approximately 10-foot) high dive.

So naturally, she chose to mark her 80th birthday on June 9 with a plunge from her favorite high dive.

On Sept. 15, the final day of swimming this year at Devon Pool, she did it again.

"It's so much fun," Cameron said. "I love it up there. I go off all the time.

"I'm the (oldest high-diver) record-holder for Arlington. I know that because there is no other high board in Arlington," she said. "I don't know, but I think I might be the record-holder for Franklin County."

Don't confuse Cameron's dives with a feet-first leap.

"That would be a jump," she said. "I do a nice, straight dive. My legs are together most of the time."

If not for a former job that took her overseas for months on end, Cameron might be the longest-running member of Devon Pool. As it stands, she has to settle for the pool's eldest high-diver.

That distinction gives her a good deal of pleasure and even a bit of pride, but she said those feats pale in comparison to the joy she gets from swimming at Devon Pool.

"The first question I asked my Realtor was, 'How close is the nearest pool?'" she said.

Mike King, pool manager at Devon, said he's seen a lot of regular swimmers attend each of the community's pools in the 22 years he's been working for the city, but none quite like Cameron.

"She's a sweetheart," King said. "She's been here forever, and she's one of those people who has a lot of history with UA."

In addition to regularly proposing art projects and other activities she thinks we'll liven the atmosphere at the pool, King said Cameron likes to make use of Devon's "rest periods," when only adults are permitted in the pool.

"I've never had a person quite that age go off the high board," he said. "Every rest period, you're going to see Dorothy up there diving. There'll be other times you'll see her swimming, but she really takes advantage of those rest periods.

"It's kind of fun to see her come in every evening. She's just an interesting character."

Not only has Cameron spent countless hours in the pool -- and beside it, reading -- she's formed lasting friendships with a "small but devout" group of about eight Devon Pool regulars she's dubbed the "Swimming Gang."

At least three members of the Gang are retired and two are at least 80 years old; Cameron said the "baby" of the bunch is 43.

The group plans few formal meetings, but they've built a bond after regularly crossing paths and swimming lanes on summer afternoons at the pool.

"It's just a group that got to know each other at the pool," Cameron said. "We all go around 4 or 5 (p.m.) and just got to talking.

"It's amazing what everybody knows. The conversation is incredible and I read like crazy just to keep up with them."

In addition to discussing current events, literature and topics such as business and communications, the Swimming Gang has encouraged one another to keep swimming, Cameron said, and they gather for dinner a few times throughout the year.

Following Cameron's momentous 80th birthday dive, they celebrated.

"Some members of the pool gang were there and after that, we went to my place for some margaritas and grilling," Cameron explained.

Just three days prior to the annual closing of Devon Pool, Cameron was looking forward to another dive, but couldn't ward off at least a bit of melancholy. She said she'd likely cry on the pool's final day of operation for the 2012 swim season.

"It's a very sad day because the pool closes," she said. "Some people count down the days until it opens again, and we mourn all winter long."

As for staying busy and keeping up her hobby during the autumn and winter months, Cameron said she occasionally swims at indoor facilities throughout central Ohio, including at Ohio State University.

But, she said, it's just not the same.

"I try to get to OSU and usually I fail," she said. "Devon Pool is just a big part of my life.

"I've lived here for 49 years. I've worked overseas quite a bit, but over those 49 years when I was in the U.S., a lot of my time was at Devon Pool."

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