Prime Of Your Life | July 2019

T RACEY S HADA For more information or to make reservations, call Tracey at 308-234-6171. 1809 West 39th Street, Kearney 2501 Central Ave, Kearney 308-234-6171 October 8-14, 2019 Includes: Oklahoma City National Memorial • Cadillac Ranch • Dawn Patrol launch & hot air balloon mass ascension • Indian Pueblo Cultural Center • Balloon Glow & AfterGlow Fireworks Show • Santa Fe touring • Taos Pueblo • Royal Gorge Park • Garden of the Gods BALLOON FIESTA rime Swimminginalaneofherown: HowMoKornfeld,97,blossomedintoa worldchampionandstarlateinlife By JAMES RAINEY Los Angeles Times MESA, Ariz. — She’s a champion swimmer who didn’t learn to put her face in the water until she reached retire- ment age. She’s a world record holder, but has only the vaguest notion of her fastest times. She’s a national champion in the backstroke who can tell you about the mechanics of the stroke, but would rather rhapsodize about the heavenly view one gets, swim- ming with her back to the world, sunny-side up. Some people are born great, while others have greatness thrust upon them. So they say. Maurine Kornfeld sidled up to greatness in her own sweet time, letting it wash over her, while she paid at- tention to more important things. Now the retired social worker, who didn’t swim her first serious lap until just be- fore her 60th birthday, holds 16 age-group world records, 26 U.S. bests and dozens of national championship titles. Recently, at the U.S. Masters Swimming Spring Nation- al Championship, the late bloomer from the Hollywood Hills bagged six more titles. At 97, Mo Kornfeld is the oldest active member of the 64,000-member U.S. Masters Swimming. The menagerie of former high school and college swimmers, onetime Olympians and aquatic latecomers swim for fitness and — if so inclined — in regional, national and international competitions. On the first day of the championship meet in suburban Phoenix, a sunburned woman looked across the riot of wet, spandex-clad bodies and spotted Kornfeld: “There’s the queen.” Addressing nearly 2,000 swimmers and spectators roasting in 102-degree heat, the P.A. announcer called Kornfeld’s aquatic exploits “titanic.” Head refer- ee Teri White deemed Kornfeld, simply, “the star of the meet.” Her teammates on Pasadena’s Rose Bowl Masters swim team will regale you with stories of “Mighty Mo” — her ability to navigate two freeways to make workouts, her obliteration of most world records in the 95-99 age group, and the lowdown on the time she humbled a French- woman who dared claim that she would be the dominant nonagenarian at the 2017 World Championships. “That’s all very nice,” Kornfeld said of the effusive praise. “But, I mean, it’s only swimming. It’s not going to change the course of world events.” Indeed, as much as her swimming comrades talk about her records, they speak more passionately about the Korn- feld they know from the locker room, aqua aerobics class, and especially from the virtual salon she presides over while soaking in one of the Rose Bowl Aquatic Center’s giant hot tubs. “She greets me so enthusiastically every time I see her, I feel like I am one of her favorite people,” said Nancy Niebrugge, a teammate at the Aquatic Center, located south of the historic stadium, which happens to be one year younger than Kornfeld. “Then, when I was around her a little longer, I realized she is that way with everyone. You feel special around Mo.” ——— Growing up in Great Falls, Mont., during the Great Depression, the daughter of Maurice and Mae Kornfeld hardly could have been certain she would find a life in the big world. “Nice girls didn’t do sports,” she recalled. Young women all appeared foreordained to become teachers, secretaries or nurses. Kornfeld worked at her father’s menswear store, where she learned how to relate to strangers. And she spent long hours in the town library, where the children’s librarian encouraged a love of art and of adventurous reading. By junior high, she listened to “The University of Chicago Roundtable,” a radio broadcast of scholars conversing on the great topics of the Western world. The university’s brilliant young chancellor, Robert Hutchins, particularly captured her imagination. (“My idea of educa- tion,” he once said, “is to unsettle the minds of the young and inflame their intellects.”) Suitably inflamed, high school graduate Mo informed her parents that she wanted to attend the University of Chicago. “They were terrified at the thought,” Kornfeld recalled. “They were sure I would be met at the train station by Al Capone.” Her time at the great university cemented a love of learning, of books, of theater and opera. “It was rubbing minds with some of the best and brightest,” she said. “I mean, what wouldn’t be exciting?” She got a bachelor’s and then master’s degree in social work and moved to Los Angeles, where a brother, Herb, had become a painter and commercial illustrator. Kornfeld worked for Los Angeles Unified School District, and later for a program of the National Council of Jewish Women that provided childcare for working women, and still later for Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, in creating a foster grandparent program. The ethic of social work, attending to those in need, echoed a Kornfeld family value. “You focused on others, not on oneself,” she said one day in her Craftsman bungalow, where Renoir light floods the cozy living room. “Remember, selfies hadn’t been invented yet. In any sense.” In the 1970s, Kornfeld managed to dodge the decade’s SEE SWIMMING CONTINUED ON PAGE 8 Tribune News Service Mo Kornfeld2: Maurine Kornfeld, 97, working out at the Rose Bowl Aquatics Center in Pasadena, Calif., May 6. She is a member of the Rose Bowl Masters Swim Team. She’s a champion swimmer, who didn’t learn to put her face in the water until she reached retirement age. She’s a world record holder in the pool.