For the last 58 years, the tight-knit Towson neighborhood of Stoneleigh has celebrated the end of summer by gathering at the neighborhood pool to watch the much-anticipated performance of the community’s synchronized swim team.
“I don’t know if there was ever a year when it didn’t happen,” said Ellen Roberts, who grew up in Stoneleigh, became a member of the Stoneleigh Synchro Swim Team at age 8, and continues to support the team to which her daughter now belongs. She sometimes watches the girls practice from a chaise lounge at the pool, other times from the front porch of her house that overlooks the pool.
But for the first time that Roberts, and probably any other long-term Stoneleigh resident can remember, the traditional summer performance won’t be taking place.
This past June, the coaches made the difficult decision to cancel both the season and end-of-season performance. Maureen Huether—Stoneleigh resident, former synchro swim team member, and current synchro swim coach—along with her daughter Maggie Huether Anton, also a coach, were coping with an all-encompassing responsibility that prevented them from giving the team their full attention. The late Robert (Bob) Lawrence Huether, husband of Maureen Huether and father of Maggie Huether Anton, was suffering from advanced pancreatic cancer.
"[Canceling the season] was a very hard decision to make. I love the girls. I miss them," Huether said.
Bob Huether passed away at his Stoneleigh home on July 27, 2012. Shortly afterwards, Roberts came up with an idea that would allow the neighborhood to continue the legacy of celebrating the end of summer with a special pool-centric event. Only this one would be in memory of Bob Huether.
The idea came to Roberts as she was drafting a note to the members of synchro swim team, alerting them of Bob Huether’s death. Maureen Huether had suggested that, in lieu of flowers, anyone who wished to make a donation could do so to the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins Hospital. That’s where her husband had been treated during his illness. It’s also where Roberts serves as development director, raising funds for cutting-edge cancer research pursued at the Baltimore institution.
While Roberts felt certain that many families of the synchro swimmers would welcome an opportunity to show their condolences with a gift to the cancer center, she wanted to go one step further. A swimathon, open to members of the swim team as well as to the entire neighborhood, could serve as a way for community members to come together and remember their neighbor who was no longer with them.
"Bob was here for every synchro show. I think he would really like this," Huether said.
As neighbors swim in honor of Bob Huether, who lost his fight to cancer, they also will be supporting the efforts of Swim Across America, a nationwide event that raises money and awareness for cancer research. Proceeds from the Baltimore chapter of Swim Across America, one of the event’s several nationwide sites, benefit the Swim Across America lab at the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center.
“Luis Diaz treated Bob. Like all the doctors at Hopkins, he’s brilliant,” Roberts said. “At Hopkins, they are so committed to always doing better, to making that advance.” Incidentally, Diaz heads up the Swim Across America lab at Hopkins.
On August 26, 2012, the date originally chosen for the annual synchro performance, members of the Stoneleigh community will gather as they do at the end of every summer. But this year, they will come together to swim or cheer others on in an event that will help raise money to fund cancer research at the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center’s Swim Across America lab. At the same time they will remember their neighbor, Bob Huether.
“We named the swimathon the Power of Love. That’s what the name of the show was going to be. Now, it’s out of love for Bob,” Roberts said.
For more information or to register for the swimathon, which takes place on August 26 from 8:00am to noon, please visit: www.swimacrossamerica.org/stoneleigh or email Ellen Roberts at firstname.lastname@example.org. Registration fee is $25 per person; $75 per family.