Neighbors and friends gave Weymouth’s Mary Jackson a big “welcome home” celebration when she returned from California this week. Jackson, 94, won three gold medals in swimming at the National Senior Games at Stanford University.
Mary Jackson describes her homecoming and the competition. Click center to turn off and on.
The signs on the front screen door, in children’s handwriting, said it all:
“You rock, Mrs. Jackson.”
“You go girl.”
On Thursday morning, 94-year-old Mary “Mae” Jackson woke up in her own bed for the first time in two weeks and thought, “I must still be in dreamland.”
Jackson, the winner of three gold medals in swimming at this year’s National Senior Games at Stanford University, received a royal “welcome home” Wednesday night from a group of about 60 neighbors, friends and fellow parishioners at St. Albert the Great Church.
“It was unbelievable,” she said Thursday, describing her reception at Logan Airport, the limousine ride to Weymouth with champagne, the crowd waiting outside her house with balloons and signs, and even some fireworks set off by a neighbor in her honor. “It’s just all been so wonderful.”
A neighbor, Bina Sullivan, who lives across the street, stopped by Thursday morning with her grandchildren, Amanda Sullivan, 11, Callie Sullivan, 7, and Molly Griffin, 12. The three girls are all swimmers.
“I started swimming at the South Shore YMCA years ago when my daughter was 7 and I was teaching her, because she had to wait until age 8 to join the swim team,” Jackson told the girls.
Jackson swam in the Charles River and at the L Street Bathhouse as a girl, and she went on to coach a youth swim team at the Y.
Today, she still swims once a week at the Connell Memorial Swimming Pool in Weymouth.
Jackson became a bit of a sensation at the National Senior Games when she won gold medals in the 200-yard, 100-yard and 50-yard backstroke competitions, in the age 90-94 age group.
She only began competitive swimming two years ago, at age 92, when her granddaughter Jennifer Ericson, who was a competitive swimmer in high school, came from San Francisco to take her to the Massachusetts Senior Games in Springfield.
“You can do it,” she told her grandmother.
Jackson still has the T-shirt that Ericson made for her to wear two years ago. It says: “Still trying ...Senior Olympics 2009: Here I come!”
She also still wears the 40-year-old faded blue nylon swimsuit that once belonged to Julie Doherty, a young woman she coached. Doherty is now 62.
Because the suit’s shoulder straps are loose, Jackson wore a different suit at the National Senior Games.
The enthusiasm and affection of the crowd that greeted Jackson at her home still had her smiling broadly on Thursday.
“She was overwhelmed with tears, and it was so touching,” said Elizabeth Griffin, a St. Albert’s parish member who organized the celebration and went to the airport.
“She said she had never been in a limo, and she was like a little kid, giggling. We opened the champagne and called her granddaughter in San Francisco. She talked nonstop the whole way home.”
Jackson celebrated her 94th birthday after the Senior Games with her family in California. On Wednesday night, her neighbors and friends all sang “Happy Birthday.”
“What a celebration it was on West Lake Drive,” Griffin said.
Sue Scheible may be reached at email@example.com.