Swimmer Spotlight – Geraldine “Jerri” Kawabata 1


Swimmer Spotlight

Name/Age: Geraldine “Jerri” Kawabata / 81

Workout group: Tualatin Hills Barracudas

Geri KowabataAs a family our early experiences with water were the Pacific Ocean, Blue Lake and Pudding River. We learned to swim with help from our dad, but I remember having swimming lessons at the YMCA on 39th and Sandy Blvd. in the early 1940s. As a young person, however, the greater part of physical activity was spent in a neighborhood with many young people and in schools where there were good PE classes, intramural and sometimes intramural competitions. I am thankful for some educators at Rose City Park Elementary School for organizing these activities. I was fortunate to spend my freshman year at Gresham High School. Dorothy Craven was girls’ physical education director and organized a program with many activities that I never experienced anywhere else. These are treasured memories.

As a young person, I remember casually thinking I would like to swim with a group but did not know how to pursue it. There were park pools in Portland but we were not allowed to go to them because of the polio scare in those days. I just took part in athletic activities that were easily available during the rest of high school and university.

After completing university I taught in Rainier, Oregon and then had a chance to teach in East Africa. The school was a military dependent school. I married and moved to a number of places with my husband, who was a security investigator for the Army Security Agency. After eight years we left the army and moved to Portland. We joined a developing athletic club near where we lived. Our five children took swimming lessons and eventually began swimming with the team there. Ty Steinbock was the director and coach at that time. The club had an exercise room there and calisthenic classes were offered. There were also racquetball courts. I spent some time taking advantage of those activities. While watching my children’s swim workouts I was motivated to begin swimming laps. I experienced an elevated energy level and excellent sleep.

I read Kenneth Cooper’s book, Aerobics, and began regular lap swimming. Eventually I used his point schedule for motivation and have continued this for years. We moved to the David Douglas High School area for the swim program. My lap swimming routine continued for about twelve years. During this time I did swim in one meet at Mt. Hood Community College in the 1970s. I believe it was organized by Connie Wilson. Sometime in the 1980s I began to do less swimming. I took aerobic classes, walked, biked and jogged a bit. I used a mini trampoline at home and climbed stairs on my lunch hour at work to augment the routine. Near the turn of the century I began to think of returning to swimming, thinking of the benefits to an aging skeleton.

My daughter, Karen Andrus-Hughes, was the actual motivator for my return to swimming. She wanted my 90 year old father, my son, Jerry, my granddaughter, Lauren and me to swim a four generation relay at the 2004 State Games. My dad had been swimming laps for years and was recovering from a broken hip. Karen suggested that I go to Tualatin Hills Recreation Center and experience a 50 meter swim. Afterward she mentioned that Dave Radcliff suggested I go to a noon Barracuda workout for some stroke work. Laurie Kilbourn was the coach. We did swim the four generation, 200 meter relay. My dad swam the 50 meter freestyle doing backstroke.

My husband, Fred, decided to join the noon swim with Laurie. I also began to swim in the morning with Jon Clark from time to time. Early in 2006 he asked me if I had thought about going to the FINA World Masters Championships in Palo Alto. He said I would be eligible. I had encouragement from coaches and my daughter, Karen, and decided it was an experience I wanted. I have continued to compete from time to time and want to do well but my main goal is fitness. A wonderful benefit to Masters swimming is the friends and coaching. It is wonderful to live where we have the facilities.


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One thought on “Swimmer Spotlight – Geraldine “Jerri” Kawabata

  • Darby Sitter

    What an interesting background of your athletic endeavors that led you to Masters swimming! Interesting that the polio scare kept people from public pools. Glad your daughter encouraged you to swim as a family in the State Games. What a memorable experience! You’ve had great advice all along and I’m more grateful to swim with you! My daughter encouraged me to look into Masters swimming and I began doing the early morning workouts with her that were coached by Laurie! I also enjoyed learning more about you.