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Still Crystal Clear
The plane crash that killed the 1961 U.S. world championship figure skating team decimated families and the sport, but alongside grief came renewal.
The young people pose casually on the steps of the Boeing 707, their faces luminous with excitement, jitters, pride and adrenaline, brightened by the easy smiles of born performers. They are figure skaters, and they are going somewhere special, about to fly to Brussels en route to Prague for the 1961 world championships.
Some are experienced competitors, but many are untried. The trip gives them a jump start on a new four-year Olympic cycle, their first chance to demonstrate they are legitimate heirs to the dominant U.S. teams of the postwar era.
The photograph, taken at Idlewild Airport in New York City, is 50 years old now, its age betrayed by the model of the aircraft and the vintage clothing and hairstyles. It captures one of the last scenes before the team's course was irreversibly set. If only the skaters could be coaxed away from the plane's door and down the steps. If only they could be led across the damp tarmac to safety, to the rest of their lives.
Sabena Flight 548 crashed on the morning of Feb. 15, 1961, while attempting to land in Brussels, killing all 72 aboard -- 34 of them in the U.S. skating delegation -- and one farmer on the ground in the fields around Zaventem Airport.
An entire generation of athletes and teachers died, taking with them competitive promise and a huge reserve of institutional knowledge. No one knows how many medals the athletes would have won or how many more champions their coaches would have molded. Yet their influence on American figure skating still resonates.
The dapper man Dudley Richards had nothing left to prove on the ice. He had overcome a broken neck suffered in a pier-diving accident as a teenager and won national titles at every level. At 29, he had competed at world championships and the Olympics and aimed to be a future leader of the sport. But he still loved skating, and moreover was in love with his pairs partner, "Little Maribel" Owen.
His younger sister Susan didn't share his passion for skating, but she adored him. He was the hearth her family gathered around. "He had a knack for making you feel important, even though he was the important one," she said. Dudley was elegant and magnetically popular; Susan was short and self-conscious. He told her she was lucky because people would like her for who she was. Dudley's Harvard University roommate Fred Heller treated Susan like a sister, too. It came naturally. Richards served in the Army and worked as a commercial real estate broker. He was 25 when venerable coach Maribel Vinson Owen asked whether he would like to skate pairs with her namesake daughter. Susan remembers getting word of the plane crash, numbly packing her car, bundling up her children and driving to her parents' home in Rhode Island, where she stayed for three months. Heller, who was working in Europe at the time, flew to Brussels as soon as he could. He identified his friend's body by recognizing a St. Christopher's medal he had given Richards. He attended the memorial service held in Belgium and accompanied Richards' casket home.
He and Susan wouldn't see each other again for 50 years.
The morning after
The mystery of what went wrong aboard Sabena Flight 548 began even before the plane crashed. The crew didn't communicate with ground control in the flight's final minutes, and, for some unknown reason the pilot retracted the plane's landing gear on his initial approach. One theory is that another aircraft was too close to the intended runway. After the aborted approach, the plane turned left and circled the airport three times, bucking and banking at an increasingly steep angle. Then it went vertical, spiraled downward and exploded on impact.
Passengers' bodies were found hunched over in the crash position. The destruction of life was complete, yet some possessions survived, including airline tickets, jackets with USA patches on them and a partially burned copy of that week's Sports Illustrated with 16-year-old U.S. ladies champion Laurence Owen, a passenger on the plane, beaming from the cover.
The Canadian skaters who landed in Prague the morning of the crash crumpled in horror and disbelief at the news -- some had planned to fly with their American friends.
In Rye, N.Y., 10-year-old Diana LeMaire woke at dawn to the unaccustomed sound of adults bustling around on the floor below. Confused, she came downstairs. Her mother sat her and her sister Dorinda down at the kitchen table and told them their handsome, gregarious father, skating judge Eddie LeMaire, and their energetic 13-year-old brother Dickie were dead.
"Some people never have a father or a brother,'' a composed Muriel LeMaire told her girls. "You at least had a father and a brother, even if it was for a short time.''
At Purdue University, Russell Pierce found out from a minister that his only brother, Larry, the national ice-dancing champion with partner Diane Sherbloom, had been killed. "I was 18, and we were all invincible," Russell said. "It took months for me to realize this wasn't just another competition he hadn't come back from."
Newly inaugurated President John F. Kennedy issued a statement expressing condolences. Czech organizers and other officials lobbied to go ahead with the world championship, but the International Skating Union overruled them and canceled the event. Stunned friends and fellow athletes in the skating hotbeds of Boston, Colorado Springs, Colo., and Los Angeles attended multiple funerals in a week.
Identifying all the remains took more than a week, adding to the families' agony. After visiting the crash scene and the morgue, King Baudouin of Belgium donated oak caskets with the royal seal on one end to transport the bodies home. Small shifts of fate had determined who went on the trip and who stayed home. Future U.S. champion Lorraine Hanlon was among the junior skaters invited to accompany the team to Prague and skate in exhibitions afterward. She wanted to go, but the private school she attended threatened to expel her if she did. Coach Ron Ludington decided he couldn't afford the airfare to accompany his ice dancers Bob and Pat Dineen. Four-time U.S. silver medalist Tim Brown became visibly ill during his free skate at the national championship in the thin air of Colorado Springs, his mouth hanging open in distress. He finished his program with split jumps that took him all the way out of the rink. The judges placed him third.
Brown was diagnosed with a heart ailment, and fourth-place finisher Doug Ramsay -- a pint-size dynamo from Detroit who defied physics by lingering in the air on his double axel and sometimes did the jump with his arms folded -- was invited to go to worlds in his place. Brown would later write to Ramsay's mother, apologizing for being alive. Investigators from Belgium, the U.S. and an international oversight group combed evidence for months. The FBI probed possible terrorism. Rumors multiplied and spread. No cause was ever definitively established, although authorities eventually agreed the most plausible explanation was a mechanical failure. U.S. figure skating executives issued a mandate that still stands: No team traveling to an international competition would ever fly together again.
The wholesome starlets Sharon and Stephanie Westerfeld had promised to come meet their cousin Diane's 10-month-old baby as soon as they could after they got back from worlds. On Feb. 15, Diane Yeomans Robins awakened to a voice on the clock radio telling her they were dead.
Diane and her twin brothers loved being in the reflected glow of the sisters' beauty and talent and intelligence. "We were almost in awe of Sherri and Steffi," said Diane, whose mother, Sue, and the Westerfelds' mother, Myra, were sisters.
Myra Westerfeld moved with her daughters from the family's hometown of Kansas City to Colorado Springs in 1949 so they could train 12 months a year but the cousins saw each other often. Steffi faltered in her free skate at the '61 nationals and finished second to Laurence Owen, but their burgeoning rivalry held great promise. Myra couldn't afford three plane tickets to worlds and sent Sherri to chaperone her 17-year-old sister. After the crash, Diane marveled at her aunt's spirit. "Truthfully, my kids looked forward to her visits because she'd tell stories and laugh," she said. Myra doted on the girls' poodle, and the dog's death shook her badly; she persuaded the cemetery to bury the pet next to Sherri and Steffi. After Myra's death in 1984, Diane's family found the box containing the 16-millimeter film of the 1961 national championships that had been sent to all the families of the crash victims -- unopened, in its original packaging. When Diane received the invitation to represent the family at the Hall of Fame induction ceremony, she initially fought mixed emotions. Her daughter Laurie, the baby the Westerfeld girls never got to fuss over, told Diane she was going with or without her. Diane thought about how much the honor would have meant to her aunt, the skating mother. "I owe this to Myra and the girls," she said.
Rebuilding and renewal The crash of Sabena 548 was a very public event, but the news receded into the tumultuous 1960s. The sport, understandably, focused on retooling.
Within a week of the crash, U.S. skating officials established a memorial fund to honor the team and support the sport's depleted ranks. The skating community reacted with its instinctive show-must-go-on ethic. The Skating Club of Boston -- which lost 10 members in the crash -- held the first big event to benefit the fund, converting its annual Ice Chips show into a tribute. A season later, some older skaters felt obligated to extend their careers. Barbara Roles, the 1960 Olympic bronze medalist, came back to win the 1962 ladies' title less than a year after having a child. At the same time, the progress of some younger skaters accelerated because of the vacuum above them. Twelve-year-old Scott Allen won the U.S. men's silver medal in 1962 while still decidedly a boy. Two years later, he was the only U.S. skater to medal at the Innsbruck Olympics, capturing the bronze the week he turned 15. Some skating hubs reached out to other countries to replenish their staffs. At the Iceland rink in Paramount, Calif., the death of charismatic young coach Bill Kipp had left many students bereft, including a 12-year-old girl named Peggy Fleming. John Nicks, a British pairs skater who had won a world championship with his sister, arrived the next fall to replace him. It was a move that changed the course of his life and others. Nicks, now 81 and still coaching, worked with Fleming and would later guide three U.S. pairs to the world championship podium: JoJo Starbuck and Kenneth Shelley, Tai Babilonia and Randy Gardner, and Jenni Meno and Todd Sand. His longtime pupil Sasha Cohen won Olympic silver in 2006.
Fleming, one of the first recipients of a Memorial Fund gift, used it to buy new skates. She would eventually move on to train under Italian émigré Carlo Fassi, who was recruited to succeed Edi Scholdan at the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, Colo. Fassi's later protégés included Olympic gold medalist Dorothy Hamill and world champion Jill Trenary. Figure skating in the U.S. wouldn't regain anything resembling its 1950s supremacy until the 1980s and '90s, but, in retrospect, it rebounded from the tragedy faster than might have seemed possible. American skaters won a world championship medal in every discipline -- ladies' and men's singles, pairs and dance -- in 1965, and were never shut out at an Olympics. The raven-haired Fleming, with her dramatic gaze and flowing style, became a symbol of perseverance. She won three straight world championships beginning in 1966, the same year her father succumbed to a heart attack at age 41. Fleming's Olympic title in 1968 was the lone gold medal won by U.S. athletes in Grenoble, and her immense popularity after the Games set a template for decades of American ice queens to come.
The madcap professor Roberta Scholdan was on the ice with her students in Vienna when someone came out of the office at the rink and told her the plane carrying her ex-husband and 12-year-old son had gone down. With it went a huge swath of her past and an imagined future.
"We had planned to get back together again," Roberta said. "We both wanted to do it. Then everything happened so quickly." Edi Scholdan, the Austrian-born coach of two U.S. Olympic gold medalists, was the kind of quirky, cigar-smoking, exacting but caring mentor central to thousands of movies and novels -- except that he was real. He juggled and did other circus moves on the ice and loved producing revues. Edi left behind a partial manuscript of a children's how-to-skate book narrated by an alter ego, a bear named "Professor Loopy." "Anyone who is afraid of falling will never become a good skater and never will be able to fully enjoy the sport," the bear lectured. "He was nonstop committed to his students, so if I wanted his attention, I had to go over there," his daughter, Ruth Scholdan Harle, said of her childhood at the Broadmoor Ice Palace in Colorado Springs. "I had skates when I was 2. I was a little mascot."
Roberta had Edi and Jimmy buried in Colorado, then took Ruth back to Austria. She lost her interest in teaching and later worked as a nurse's assistant and medical secretary. "I somehow felt [skating] had been such a disastrous part of my life, I wanted to get away from it," she said. Ruth found skating without Edi bleak and gave it up for gymnastics and skiing. The years have softened her perspective on the sport, and she sometimes wishes she had stayed in it. "It was literally a life left behind," she said. Now, watching her 13-year-old daughter ride in equestrian events, Ruth tries to channel the best of Edi. "We talk about competing, the discipline behind it, mastering something for yourself," she said. "He was positive, but pretty strict and demanding. The way he taught me to ski was to point me downhill and say 'Figure it out, and I'll ski in front.'"
Bridging the gap Keeping the grainy black-and-white legacy vivid in a high-definition, full-color world has been a challenge, but some skaters have made it their business to understand it.
For an event commemorating the 40th anniversary of the crash, Sarah Hughes, a few months from winning Olympic gold, prepared a program in honor of the '61 team. She began her number with school figures she had done as a child and skated to "You'll Never Walk Alone." Held in Madison Square Garden in October 2001, the tribute was doubly somber because of the events of Sept. 11. Hughes felt nervous, not only because of the occasion but because she was tracing the figures with freestyle blades. One top skater keenly aware of the crash's repercussions is 2010 Olympic gold medalist Evan Lysacek. His longtime coach, Frank Carroll, was a student of passenger Maribel Vinson Owen, the nine-time U.S. ladies' champion and 1932 Olympic bronze medalist who was both feared and revered as a coach, not least by the two daughters she molded into top competitors. Lysacek's relationship with Carroll remained old-school and somewhat distant until the last two years they worked together, the skater said. "He was the boss, and I was afraid of him -- he spoke the word of God, and I listened," he said. "He would talk about the way [Owen] did things, why she did things the way she did and why I had to do them that way." Carroll didn't swat Lysacek with a skate guard as Owen occasionally would, and he didn't order Lysacek to quit professional skating and go to law school, which Owen once did to Carroll. But Lysacek felt the wrath of the martinet by osmosis if he questioned Carroll's direction. "'You're out of line,'" Lysacek recited, distilling his memory of Carroll's words in hundreds of training sessions. "'This is in your best interests. It doesn't benefit me. That's the way she did it, and I can't teach it any other way.'"
Lysacek said he didn't understand the depth of the connection until he was mature enough to contemplate what it would be like to lose Carroll, whom he considered a second father. That gave him a glimmer of what it must have been like for Carroll to lose Owen.
The man they memorized
Terri Ryan Sullivan, born in 1958, remembers her father, Danny Ryan, only in brief sequences she thought were dreams until years later when her mother confirmed they had happened. In one, she is supposed to be napping but keeps running back into the kitchen where her parents are having lunch. Danny chases her down a hallway, teasing that he's going to catch her. "When you lose a father at 2½ years old, you don't have the grief of someone who knew him -- you grieve not having a father throughout your life," Terri said.
A sandy-haired, blue-eyed former U.S. ice-dancing champion, Danny quickly took to coaching but never lost the look of a man concocting mischief. RoseAnne Paquette was olive-skinned, high-cheekboned and self-contained. They fell hard for each other in her native Ontario, married in 1955, taught together at the Winter Club of Indianapolis and had five children in five years. Their youngest, Michael, was just 2 weeks old when Danny left for Prague. RoseAnne would have gone, too, had the baby come earlier. "She told me that people would ask her what she was going to do, and she'd say, 'What do you mean? I have five children. I'm going to go back to work and put food on the table,'" Sullivan said. RoseAnne, who died at age 75 in November, didn't have the luxury of time for self-pity. Instead, she became a world-class multitasker. She taught skating full-time, made cheese fondue on Christmas Eve, sewed costumes for her students, gardened and made pottery. In photos from the 1960s, the children are dressed impeccably in matching outfits. At the Hall of Fame induction for the 1961 team, Terri spoke while her sister Sheryl held the engraved bowl bearing Danny's name: "Fifty years ago, we lost our father from our immediate family. But our larger family, our skating family, came to be by our side." The Ryan brothers emerged from the crowd, and the five siblings wrapped their arms around each other's shoulders.
Funding dreams The collective trauma of the crash was so searing that in some ways it has taken a half-century to process. Some found being involved with skating too painful. Some found their way back.
Eddie LeMaire's daughter, Diana LeMaire Squibb, stopped skating after the crash. When she was in her early 20s, a boyfriend started pestering her to get back on the ice. She got her mother's blessing first -- then started training six hours a day, six days a week. "I had to get it out of my system," Diana said. She took pleasure in every stroke, skating as fast as she once had when her father hoisted her on his shoulders and skimmed around the ice. Diana followed her father into judging and used her maiden name as a middle name to honor him. During her 25-year-career, people recognized it and shared their stories about Eddie. "I learned so much from them about Daddy, what an imp he was," she said. It has been harder sometimes to reconcile the loss of her ebullient older brother whose last words to her were a playful "See you, Squirt."
One of Diana's great comforts -- and that of many others who lost their loved ones in the crash -- is the legacy of the memorial fund established in honor of the 1961 team, which has grown and prospered.
The fund has provided a total of $10 million for skaters' athletic and educational expenses since its inception. This season, it disbursed about $300,000. The 2011 U.S. champions in all four disciplines have benefited from it at some point in their careers. So did coach Danny Ryan's grandson, Christopher Nolan, who kept competing while attending the University of Delaware. Yet Carol Heiss Jenkins, the world and Olympic gold medalist who has coached in the Cleveland area for 33 years, sometimes worries that young skaters and coaches don't understand the history of the '61 team and its legacy. She tries to keep the link alive by telling stories. Jenkins knew everyone on the plane. She roomed with Laurence Owen at the 1960 Olympics, and often recalls the way the spirited teenager coyly asked whether she planned to retire and give someone else a chance. "She was a lot of fun, full of life," Jenkins said. "There was a lot of heritage there with her mother, but it didn't seem to overwhelm her." The veteran coach once shared practice sessions at her home club in New York with skating judge Harold Hartshorne and his wife, Louise, who died in the crash. Jenkins still wears a diamond skate pendant, converted to a pin, that the Hartshornes gave her after she retired. Back then, few rinks maintained summer ice, so skaters from different parts of the country naturally met and mingled in those scattered outposts that did. Jenkins trained in East Lansing, Mich., with Ramsay and some of the Boston skaters.
"They say time heals, but it's still devastating," Jenkins said. "I get a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach when I think about it. "They were going to be the stars -- this was their time. They all would have done well. It was a very talented team." In January, the team finally received a dignified curtain call as all of its members were inducted into the U.S. Skating Hall of Fame in a ceremony at the national championships in Greensboro, N.C. It was time to acknowledge that although the sport managed to rebuild, what the families lost was irreplaceable. It was time to bring them together.
The quick study In an essay Diane "Dee Dee" Sherbloom wrote in early 1960 with high school graduation approaching, she described herself as shy and overly wary of what people thought of her. "For the last seventeen years I have been a very happy but serious type individual," she wrote. "This is not the ending but the very beginning of my life."
Petite, blond Dee Dee was adept at music, art, school and ice-dancing. Her father, Tom, a Hollywood ice sculptor, chiseled her likeness when she was a teenager, and she and her sister, now Joan Sherbloom Peterson, trained at a grand old wooden rink called the Polar Palace. It all could have gone to her head, but Dee Dee aspired to be a doctor, not a princess. She had intended to stop skating, but when accomplished ice dancer Larry Pierce asked her to fill in for his injured partner, she didn't ponder long. On Dec. 18, 1960, she woke up in the bedroom she shared with Joan and left home forever. Dee Dee and Larry went on to win the national title and competed at the North American championships. Prague was to be next, followed by exhibitions in Europe and Japan. She sent a postcard to Joan before she left for Brussels: "I am totally on Cloud 9. Life is really very wonderful, don't you ever forget it." Fifteen-year-old Joan was home alone when reporters showed up at the house the morning of the crash. The aftermath, she said, "was a frenzy a fog."
Joan kept skating, and competed in ice dance at nationals. But, she said, "It changed things with my mom and dad and I. The innocence of childhood is gone, and it's now the survival of three people. You're working together to get through it." Tom Sherbloom spent months carving the mold for a bronze plaque bearing the names of the Los Angeles Figure Skating Club members killed in the crash. When the Polar Palace burned down in May 1963, skaters combing the debris found the plaque, cracked but intact. Joan had it repaired. It's displayed in the Pickwick Ice Arena in Burbank, Calif. Joan coped for years by picturing her sister as still traveling, having the time of her life. "To this day, I think of people when they pass, 'They're not gone, they're away,'" she said.
The return When the relatives of the 1961 team members walked into the Greensboro Coliseum banquet room reserved for the Hall of Fame ceremony, they saw a row of engraved silver bowls lined up on the dais. Each represented a family forever altered by loss.
The inductees were introduced the way skaters are at competitions, by name and club. Most of the family members chose not to speak as applause washed over them, some of it coming from the only other people in the world who could understand. Some were living tributes to the '61 team members. Bruce and Johanne Lord came with their son Bradley, named after Bruce's brother, the men's champion. Stephen Kelley, who lost his brother Gregory and sister Nathalie on the flight, was accompanied by his son Gregory, named for the silver medalist. Dudley Richards Abbe played goalie for his high school hockey team and helped win two Maine state championships. Carrying his uncle's name "gave me drive," he said. "I figured, I'm not going to be an Olympian, but I could push a little harder in the weight room and be a little more dedicated." Others came for those who couldn't. Linda Michelson met Rhode Lee Michelson's only brother, Mike, five years after the crash. She pieced together a sense of the high-spirited California girl -- the '61 bronze medalist who was determined to compete in Prague despite a sore hip -- from her husband's stories. Mike's mother, Marty, was always more reticent to talk about her feelings. After Marty Michelson died, Linda and Mike discovered among her belongings a hope chest they had had no idea existed. They lifted the lid and found a time capsule filled with layers of skating programs, photographs and articles about the crash. Rhode's belongings -- a felt record album cover, a burned chain and cross, her immunization papers and her Sabena ticket -- were still in the envelope they'd arrived in from the U.S. Embassy in Brussels. Along with it was a letter asking the family to pay for the postage.
Stunned, Linda dropped to her knees and wept. "I felt so connected to Mike's mother at that moment," she said. "It's one of the biggest regrets of my life that I never understood the depths of her despair." Linda lost her husband to a heart attack four years ago, and when she was invited to Greensboro, she initially declined, then changed her mind. "Nothing would have kept Mike away," she said. Now 75, Susan Richards Abbe is a pragmatic woman who tends to say exactly what's on her mind. She has outlived her parents, both of her brothers and her husband. She walks with difficulty but still radiates an indomitable air. She doesn't seem like someone who would struggle with closure, but as the Hall of Fame ceremony approached, some old emotions stirred and swam to the surface. She hadn't seen Fred Heller, the family friend, in almost 50 years. They had been back in touch, thanks to the author of a book about the 1961 team. They had exchanged e-mails and phone calls. Both worried they might be overwhelmed when they saw each other again. The night before the induction ceremony, Susan walked into a hotel suite in Greensboro and Fred opened his arms. "My other brother," she said as she and Fred embraced, patting each other gently on the back as her children looked on, some wiping tears from their eyes. Susan and Fred marveled at the passage of time for a little while, then both announced they needed a drink. Susan left her walker at her chair the next evening and strode purposefully up to the dais to accept the bowl engraved with Dudley's name. A gold bracelet dangling with charms -- her brother's skating medals -- chimed from her wrist. The next morning, about to leave for home, Susan looked tired but content. "I feel," she said, "like I can finally put Dudley to rest."
Bonnie D. Ford covers Olympic sports for ESPN.com. She can be reached at email@example.com. Join the conversation about "Still Crystal Clear."
1961 world team bios
Next Ann Bromloc Campbell, 55, and Roger Hunter Campbell, 18, North Hollywood, Calif. Tall and agile, interested in fashion and interior design, Roger Campbell was the 1961 U.S. ice-dancing silver medalist with partner Dona Lee Carrier and the 1960 U.S. bronze medalist and eighth-place world championships finisher with Yvonne Littlefield. His mother was fiercely devoted to her only child's skating career and a formidable presence at his training sessions. Her husband, Al, an apartment complex manager, distanced himself from skating after the crash and died in 1974.
Dona Lee Carrier, 20, North Hollywood, Calif The tall, warm minister's daughter began skating in upstate New York and blossomed when the family moved to California. She was the 1961 U.S. ice dance silver medalist with partner Roger Campbell. After her death, her parents bought a home overlooking her gravesite. Patricia Major Dineen, 25, and Robert Francis Dineen, 25, New York, N.Y.
The husband-and-wife team met while competing against each other in the New York area. He was the son of a state Supreme Court judge and attended St. John's University; she annulled a previous marriage to wed him. They qualified for the 1961 world team by finishing third. Their deaths orphaned their 8-month-old son, Robert Jr., who was adopted by Robert's brother, a doctor. Alvah "Linda" Hadley, 33; Ila Ray Hadley, 18; and Ray Ellis Hadley Jr., 17, Seattle Under the demanding tutelage of stepmother Linda and her husband Ray Sr., Ila Ray and Ray Jr. won the 1957 U.S. junior pairs championship and the 1960 U.S. bronze medal, finished 11th at the 1960 Olympics and won the pairs silver medal at the 1961 nationals. They had to rely on a loan from their club and community donations to cover their travel expenses. Ray Sr. never recovered from seeing his entire family wiped out by the crash and died five years later.
Harold Hartshorne, 69, and Louise Heyer Hartshorne, 52, New York, N.Y. A Princeton graduate and five-time national champion in ice dance, Harold Hartshorne helped found the Skating Club of New York and was a respected judge who had been selected for judging duty at the 1961 world championships. His fourth wife shared his interest in skating and helped raise the three youngest of his seven children when their mother died. William Holmes Hickox, 18, and Laurie Jean Hickox, 15, Berkeley, Calif. Adopted and raised in the Bay Area, Laurie enjoyed early competitive success with older brother, Bill. After he was accepted into the Air Force Academy in 1960, Bill had intended to quit skating but agreed to train with Laurie again, prompting her and their mother to make a temporary move to Colorado Springs. They won the pairs bronze medal at the 1961 U.S. championships six weeks after reuniting. The Air Force, noting Bill's good grades, gave him a special dispensation to leave school and compete at the world championships.
Nathalie Frances Kelley, 28, and Gregory Eric Kelley, 16, Newton, Mass. The men's 1961 U.S. silver medalist, 1959 junior national champion and ninth-place finisher at the 1960 world championships, Gregory Kelley left home to train in Colorado Springs in 1959 because of his cordial but intense rivalry with Bradley Lord, who was also being coached by Bud Wilson at the Skating Club of Boston. Kelley's oldest sister, Nathalie, a teacher and former competitive skater, moved to Colorado to live with him and accompanied him to worlds as a chaperone. Gregory, the youngest of six siblings, aspired to follow his father into medicine. William Robert Kipp, 28, Los Angeles Kipp was a competitive ice dancer and professional show skater from Allentown, Pa., and his students at the time included a then-12-year-old Peggy Fleming. He coached 1961 U.S. bronze medalist Rhode Lee Michelson and ice dance bronze medalists Dona Lee Carrier and Roger Campbell.
Edward LeMaire, 36, and Richard Osborn LeMaire, 13, Rye, N.Y. The son of two vaudeville skaters, Edward LeMaire won national junior singles and pairs titles, served as a Navy pilot and became a stockbroker. He rose quickly through the judging ranks and was selected to judge at the 1962 world championships. (He was sent to Prague as an observer.) He brought along his son, Dickie, a bright and slightly obstreperous eighth-grader who had recovered from a potentially crippling bone infection to play soccer and swim. His parents thought a trip to Europe would be a good educational experience. The Rye Country Day School gives an annual award in Dickie's honor. Bradley Richard Lord, 21, Swampscott, Mass.
With his elegant, floating style on the ice, Lord was viewed as the stylish heir to Ice Follies legend "Mr. Debonair," Richard Dwyer, a family friend. The 1961 U.S. men's champion placed sixth at the 1960 world championships and was one of the 1961 team's best medal hopes. Deane Everett McMinn, 44, Los Angeles An accountant and Navy veteran, McMinn also had a distinguished résumé as a competitive skater, Arctic Blades Figure Skating Club founder and Olympic judge, and was asked to serve as manager for the 1961 world team.
Rhode Lee Michelson, 17, Long Beach, Calif. Feisty, athletically creative and free-spirited, Michelson narrowly won the bronze medal at the 1961 U.S. championships by making up a deficit in school figures with a stellar free skate. She was considered doubtful for the trip to Prague after injuring her hip in practice but rested it and intended to compete. Maribel Vinson Owen, 49; Maribel Yerxa Owen, 20; and Laurence Rochon Owen, 16, Winchester, Mass. A nine-time U.S. champion in singles, six-time titlist in pairs and an Olympic bronze medalist, Maribel Vinson Owen was a venerated, old-school coach whose protégés included current coaches Frank Carroll and Ron Ludington. Widowed in 1952, she wrote sports for The New York Times, coached Olympic gold medalist Tenley Albright and molded her daughters' form and careers. Laurence, a 1960 U.S. bronze medalist, 1960 Olympian and 1961 national champion, had the looks, pedigree and star power to land on the cover of Sports Illustrated the week of the crash. She also had been admitted to Radcliffe. Her fun-loving older sister, known as Maribel Jr. or Little Maribel, was a five-time U.S. medalist in pairs, four with partner Dudley Richards, including gold in 1961. Friends say the two planned to marry.
Dallas Larry Pierce, 24, Indianapolis A former U.S. Marine, the irreverent Pierce finished fifth in ice dance at the 1960 world championships with partner Marilyn Meeker. When Meeker chipped a bone in her ankle, Pierce persuaded Diane Sherbloom to pair with him, and the two won nationals after training together for only five weeks. Walter S. Powell, 81, St. Louis
A retired shoe company official and longtime U.S. skating official who served as the referee for the 1952 and 1960 Olympic Games, Powell was slated to referee at the worlds in Prague. His widow donated part of his estate to the St. Louis Symphony, which named its concert hall after him. Douglas Alexander Ramsay, 16, Redford, Mich. Compact and dynamic, Ramsay electrified the crowd and young commentator Dick Button at the 1961 nationals with his jumping ability but finished just off the podium in fourth. He replaced the ailing bronze medalist Tim Brown on the world team.
Dudley Shaw Richards, 29, Boston, Mass. A Pawtucket, R.I., native and childhood friend of the Kennedy family, Richards graduated from Harvard, served in the Army and sold real estate but never gave up skating. He and "Little Maribel" Owen, the 1961 U.S. pairs champions who were also an item off the ice, finished 10th at the 1960 Olympics. Daniel Charles Ryan, 31, Indianapolis A two-time ice-dancing world bronze medalist and 1953 national champion with Carol Ann Peters, the gifted Ryan quickly established himself as a top dance coach. He and his wife, RoseAnne, taught skating full time while raising their young family. Their fifth child was 2 weeks old when Ryan died.
Edi Wilhelm Scholdan, 50, and James Edward Scholdan, 12, Colorado Springs, Colo. An engaging showman and teacher, the Austrian-born Scholdan emigrated to the United States in 1938. As head professional at the Broadmoor Ice Palace, he trained Olympic gold medalists (and brothers) Hayes and David Jenkins and coached 1961 silver medalists Stephanie Westerfeld and Gregory Kelley. His son, Jimmy, an adventurous boy who excelled at speedskating, accompanied his father on the trip. His parents were divorced, and Edi had planned to take Jimmy to see his mother in Vienna after the World Championships. Diane Carol Sherbloom, 18, Los Angeles The daughter of a Hollywood ice sculptor, Dee Dee had put skating on the back burner to focus on school when Larry Pierce persuaded her to replace his injured partner. They won the U.S. title after training together for just a few weeks.
Carl William Swallender, 52, Detroit Bill Swallender, a former competitive and show skater, was an in-demand coaching nomad who taught all over the country before settling in Detroit. He was accompanying his student Doug Ramsay, a late replacement on the team after bronze medalist Tim Brown was diagnosed with a heart problem. Sharon "Sherri" Westerfeld, 25, and Stephanie "Steffi" Westerfeld, 17, Colorado Springs, Colo.
Both girls were born in Kansas City, Mo., but in 1949, their mother moved with them to Colorado so they could train at the Broadmoor Ice Palace. Their parents eventually divorced, but Steffi thrived on and off the ice. An exceptional student and pianist, the 1961 U.S. silver medalist had been invited to a national music competition the week of the world championships. Sherri, 25, an alternate on the 1953 world championship team, graduated with honors in psychology from Colorado College and worked at a jewelry store. She was accompanying Steffi on the trip as a chaperone; her mother, Myra, could not afford to go.