Still in the Game
Everyone knows Middlebury alumni are special but we thought we’d point out that they are also doing amazing things as they get older. Here are just three examples.
When Priscilla “Keetsie” Noyes Crosson ’49 told her daughter that she was going to skydive on her 80th birthday, her daughter said that would be just great—all the family would be there and they could plan her funeral for the next day. That didn’t deter Priscilla for a minute and the family came around to the idea. Priscilla has always loved flying—during her freshman year at Middlebury she earned her pilot’s license, at age 17! She was a charter member of the Midd Flying Club, which had its own plane, and flew out of the Middlebury Airport during her college years. After college, she gave up flying but always had the idea in her subconscious that she wanted to jump from a plane. So as she looked at her approaching 80th birthday, she decided she was going to do it before she got any older. On the weekend after Thanksgiving 2008, she went to SkyDive San Marcos, Texas. In preparation they told her no jewelry, hearing aids, or anything loose, because they would be sucked off in the jump. One lady lost her false teeth. But Priscilla was more than ready and climbed aboard the two-engine prop. The plane took off, the weather was beautiful, and Priscilla, attached by rigging to the instructor behind her for a tandem jump, dove at 10,000 feet. She says, “It was a thrilling experience for me; I just loved the fast rushing wind and speed during the free fall and then the absolute QUIET after the chute was open.” Now she’s hoping to stay fit for her next jump—on her 90th!
You might have heard the words of the 19th-century song: “He’d fly through the air with the greatest of ease; that daring young man on the flying trapeze.” Well, at 75 years old Chuck Rice ’58 may not be as young as Jules Léotard was when he developed the trapeze act, but daring? You bet! Chuck has had trapeze lessons on his bucket list for a while, so when Trapeze-Experience opened a school in West Palm Beach, Florida, near his winter home, he signed up. He had two lessons last winter and this winter he hopes to move to the next level with a goal of catch and return. He says, “Flying is not really scary, but the anticipation brings you to a state of heightened awareness. Flying depends a lot on the timing of the jump, the hook to the bar, and layout for the catch. It does require substantial upper body strength. I’ve been training for some time to gain the strength needed. The high is something else, nothing like I’ve ever experienced before. I had the time of my life and was pleased to learn I was one of, or maybe the oldest person they have taught. But you’ve got to stay in the game.” Next on Chuck’s bucket list? High-wire walking.
“During the first few steps of any run, you’re thinking, ‘Why the hell am I doing this?’ But after a few moments that feeling disappears. Running is a continual thing, a perpetual thing. It’s impossible to keep at it unless you have that drive, that determination, to succeed.” Sound like the words of an Olympic athlete? You might be surprised to learn that it’s Bob Matteson ’38 who said this. He hasn’t made it to the Olympics but he’s gathered enough world records at his age to be just as impressive. While running in the 90–95 age group, he set world records in the 100m, 200m, 400m, 800m, 1500m, and 3000m. In August 2006 he was named USA Track & Field New England Athlete of the Month after setting American records in the 200m and 400m. And the list goes on and on. Bob didn’t begin running competitively until he was in his 70s, which is why he figures the usual wear and tear of running hasn’t affected him as much as those who started earlier. That and good genes. He started out doing road races but then realized he was better at track. With the help of various running coaches, especially Pete Farwell, the cross-country and long-distance running coach at Williams College, he honed his skills over the years and took the Masters track circuit by storm. Most of his competitions have been against established records in his age group since opponents in their 90s are few and far between. He has participated in running events around the country and, after setting six world records at age 92, earned the unofficial title “Galloping Geezer.” Now 96, he has stopped racing at the recommendation of his doctor (temporarily, he hopes) but he hasn’t slowed down. He still goes off to work most days, climbing the long stairway to his office at his business, Matteson Associates.
Photographs courtesy of Priscilla Crosson, Chuck Rice, and Larry Libow.