Aquatic exercise instructor still making waves at 96

LYNDHURST, Ohio — She’s the beloved 96-year-old aquatic exercise instructor at the Hillcrest YMCA in Lyndhurst who has been helping members get healthier for nearly two decades.

Over the years, she has braved the ebb and flow of life, often swimming against the tide and managing to keep her head above water.

She is the unsinkable Rose Marra Scotland.

“Where there is a will, there is a way,” she philosophized recently before leading her “Twinges and Hinges” course to help people with arthritis and other range of motion difficulties. movement. “It depends how badly you want it.”

Rose, a longtime Y member, was recruited to take charge of the class when she was 80 years old. The funny thing is that she was afraid to go underwater, following a near drowning in Lake Erie decades ago (she was saved by her future husband).

But she didn’t let that fear stop her. The age difference between her and the other trainees didn’t deter her either.

“I walked in and saw all these young women,” she recalls. “I was like, ‘What am I doing here? I must be crazy. But then a light went on in my head and I thought, “I’m going to do this!”

She took the education part like a natural and discovered a new vocation.

“I am a late bloomer. I should have been a teacher.

Then came the swim test. As she climbed into the pool, another woman assured her, “I’m right here by your side. Let’s go.”

Rose covered the required 25 yards, using kicks that kept her face above water.

She doubted she had passed when she was the last person to receive her certificate of completion. Then the instructor leaned over and whispered, “You have a gift, don’t forget it.

She never did.

The new World

Rose Marra was born on August 25, 1925 into a family that showed her a lot of determination.

His parents, Francisco and Alessandra Marra, were both Italian immigrants who first settled in the Murray Hill neighborhood of Cleveland. At the start of World War I, her father, then 22, enlisted in the United States Army because of his deep love for his adopted country.

He suffered a poison gas attack while fighting in France and died aged 47 from his lingering injuries. Rose was 8 when he died, and her mother was left alone to raise her and her three siblings – two sisters and one brother.

At the time, her mother did not speak English. But she was determined to overcome this obstacle. She took lessons with her own children when they came home from school and learned to speak and read the language.

Rose credits much of her current health to a Mediterranean diet served by her mother, with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables.

“There were no sweets; we had no sweets,” she recalls.

There was also no radio, no car and no newspapers. The children had fun rolling a cart through the steep streets and playing other games.

There is also longevity in the genes of the family. Two of his great-grandparents lived to be 105 and died within a week of each other. One sister lived to be 96 and another 92.

Rose attended Brush High School in South Euclid and graduated in 1943. Noticing her failings in math, an instructor told her, “Rose, don’t get a job that involves numbers.”

Rose Marra, 17 years old and a graduate of Brush High School. (Photo courtesy of Rose Marra Scotland)

She took this as a challenge and set about improving her number skills, eventually becoming proficient enough to be highly regarded for her accounting accuracy, later working as a secretary to the vice president of a Cleveland company.

But at the time, she was 17 and needed a job because America was in the throes of another world war.

Rosie the Riveter

She applied to the Perfection Stove Co., which, like most other businesses, was now involved in war production, building aircraft.

Rose wanted a secretary position, but none were available. Instead, they put a rivet gun in his hand.

“I was Rosie the Riveter,” she said, a concrete example of the symbol of war for women helping the war effort.

She was introduced to “a very nice, gentle man” who was her instructor. “He had the bluest eyes, which I really liked.”

It was John Scotland, her future husband. Despite having tried three times to enlist in the army, Scotland, then in his twenties, was turned down because he was the only child supporting his mother.

Meanwhile, Rose was dating another young man, John Battsone, who was in the Army Air Corps and was soon sent to Europe. He was so taken with the young woman that he sent her his wing pin, and they continued to correspond during the war, even after his plane was shot down and he was taken prisoner by the Germans.

After the war, Rose felt the romance was over and she confessed it to her friend, John Scotland.

He quickly took advantage of the opportunity. “How about dinner and a movie?”

They married in 1946 and enjoyed 47 years of marital bliss until his death in 1993.

Rose described her husband as an introvert, while she’s definitely an outgoing one. But they blended beautifully.

“I brought him out and he pulled me in.”

Y, because we like you

They had a daughter, Sandra, and Rose has three grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

She continues to live in the Lyndhurst house which she has occupied for 71 years. She keeps busy with crocheting, knitting and gardening, wearing football skates on her knees as she kneels on the floor.

Of course, the YMCA remains a central part of his life.

She leads the one-hour “Twinges and Hinges” class twice a week.

“You have to make it fun, not boring,” she offered. “When I can help someone, I have that pleasure.”

Pink 3

Rose Scotland, 96, with participants in her ‘Twinges & Hinges’ aquatic exercise class, which she has run since she was 80. (John Matuszak, special for

She recalled a participant who could barely raise her arms when she joined. After attending “religiously” for six months, Rose said, she could raise both arms above her head.

“I still cry when I think about it,” Rose said.

Once in the pool, Rose, who is 4ft 11in, is clearly in charge.

During a series of exercises, she praises her loads to “tighten your booty!”

Another includes a chorus from the song “This Little Light of Mine”.

The Y is also a place to socialize and make friends, Rose explained. These friendships can create special moments.

Over the years, she had kept the wings given to her by her ex-boyfriend. When she ran into them recently, she and her daughter searched the internet for veteran John Battsone, aiming to return the emblem.

They learned that Battsone had died. But two Hillcrest Y staff continued the search and contacted one of his sons, Michael, who lived across the country, offering to send him the wings his father had won.

“He said, ‘Isn’t it strange, I have two tickets to fly to Cleveland,’ he told them.

Last year he met Rose at the Y and they visited for three hours, sharing stories about the man they both knew.

Rose continues to receive praise. Last year, she was on Cleveland magazine’s Most Interesting People list. Students at his alma mater, Brush High School, produced a documentary about his life.

Her close friend and “Twinges and Hinges” contestant Donna Zaller is preparing a book about Rose.

“We’re very lucky to have her,” said Phillip Hearne, director of aquatics at Hillcrest Y. “She’s so caring and she’s a great example for everyone not to get discouraged.”

Learn more about the messenger of the sun.

About Tracy G. Larimore

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