Written by: Matt Holsen, Sanford Health News
Three times a week, Nan Bohl glides away from home for a passion that fills her cup.
The 92-year-old lives at Cedar Lake Village in Olathe, Kansas.
“It’s a lifetime sport,” Nan says about swimming, an activity she loves.
Not one to sit idle, pooling her energy and hitting the water at the Olathe Community Center is an ideal way to spend an afternoon.
“I’m relaxed. It’s a relaxing thing for me,” Nan says. “I’ve done it all my life.”
She’s not kidding and you can tell from her smooth strokes. Daughter Amy Thompson says her mom’s done this before.
“It’s wonderful to see her happy again. In her element,” Amy says.
A local swim teacher for more than 40 years, Nan has also competed in the pool since college.
She’s taken home United States Masters Swimming awards and set Missouri Valley records as an older adult.
“That’s my stroke (breaststroke). The one that I won the medals in. Oh, I won them in freestyle too,” Nan says as she shows off a few prizes.
Unfortunately, last year during the COVID-19 pandemic she couldn’t dive in regularly because of safety precautions in Olathe.
“Then she got COVID and it shocked us all,” Amy says.
Right after Thanksgiving.
“I never went to the hospital but I got pretty sick,” Nan says.
It took her a few weeks to get through. She continues to have some brain fog.
“She spent probably three weeks here by herself with none of us being able to come in and talk to her,” Amy says.
Good Samaritan Society resident Nan Bohl, a decorated swimmer, visits with her daughter Amy Thompson. PHOTO BY LONNIE NICHOLS, SANFORD HEALTH
Still dealing with some aftereffects, Nan is now working her way back into shape.
“I think she is extremely impressive,” Cheyenne Dains, Society wellness director at Cedar Lake Village, says.
“Just very well loved in this community.”
Nan’s strong will is leading to a quick turnaround.
“It feels good but I do it because I love it. I don’t do it for show or anybody else’s reasons. It’s me,” Nan says.
Nan is currently training for a Masters swimming event in October in St. George, Utah.
Amy and her three siblings couldn’t be prouder.
“Always blessed that I’ve had someone so strong. I’m going to get teary,” Amy says, wiping away tears. “To think that in this day, you talk about women power. We’ve had it since we were little. You don’t realize that until you’re older. I get this (emotions) from my dad.”
Amy’s dad Ford, one of Nan’s biggest fans, died in 2019.
The couple moved into Cedar Lake Village together before that. It features a memory care unit.
“We had to move here (The Good Samaritan Society) because of my husband,” Nan says. “He had dementia.”
Nan and Ford shared a love for each other and the water for decades.
“He became a pool designer. It wasn’t little pools. He did the big ones,” Nan says.
It makes each moment practicing her craft special.
Ford actually designed the pool at Cedar Lake Village. It was opened in 2006, years before he and Nan moved to the location, as part of some new construction on campus.
‘Keeping your body and mind active’
Nan plans on pushing her body again this fall by signing up for as many races she can.
“If they can do seven, she does seven. If they can swim eight, she swims eight,” Amy says.
Giving each her very best.
“She models health amazingly. Staying active, it shows that being active and just constantly moving and keeping your body and mind active that you essentially are not aging,” Cheyenne says.
Nan learned how to teach swimming through the Red Cross. She, along with her kids, taught swim lessons to many Olathe youngsters in her backyard pool. Nan now has grandkids who also teach swimming.