Meet Flo Fitzgerald

Retirement has brought this California girl to the Great Northwest, and she, along with her husband Bob, have made a very welcome addition to the Oaks Park family.
Flo was first exposed to skating at the age of 12 when she attended her friend’s birthday party at her local rink.  As she describes it “Everybody was skating.  I liked the activity.”  And that start would soon blossom into a passion that has lasted decades.
Flo’s competitive career began at the San Mateo, CA rink in 1962.  She skated team dance with Dale Waldren, who was much taller than young Flo.  The duo got last at the Regional Championships that year.
But success was on the horizon for Flora.  At the age of 16, the partner and man of her dreams walked into the rink, and a love story began which is visible to everyone who has the joy of watching the wonderful team of Fitzgerald and Fitzgerald skate.  During a Sunday night dance session at the Redwood City rink, Flo was lined up on the wall with all of the other girls as partners were chosen for a dance.  She saw all of the girls’ heads turn as a tall, blond haired boy of 19, dressed in a blue and purple plaid shirt, walked into the building.  It was Bob Fitzgerald.  Flo asked Bob to skate during a “Ladies Choice” special during the session and from that moment on Bob and Flo were a couple, and a skating team.  She was so sure that she’d found her match that shortly after they met Flo told her mom that Bob was the man she was going to marry.
Their partnership and romance flourished simultaneously, though not always in the best of harmony.  Flora remembers coach Joe Nazarro spending a lot of time looking for for his team, and finding them kissing under the stairs in the rink instead of on the floor practicing.  But between kissing sessions, their skating skills developed wonderfully.
It was with Bob that Flo qualified for her first National Championships in 1979.  Their first regional win was in 1992.  It was in April of that same year that Flo broke her hip in a skating fall.  Bob trained with good friend Marion Spooner to stay in top form while Flora was benched, and the duo fought their way back in an amazingly short time to stand atop the podium at the Southwest Regional Championships that year.  That same work ethic and dedication led to many titles, including gold at the 2003 National Championship in Premier Dance (before the event was divided into age categories), more national titles in 2008 and 2011, and again a win in the 2012 Premier Silver National Championship.   The highlight of their skating career, however, was not focused around championship titles, but around the camaraderie of teams with whom they’d competed for years.  Their favorite skating experience was being part of the first six Premier teams in 2002.  The best part, in Flo’s words, is “to say we have made some life-long friends along the way.”
After a couple years off, Bob and Flo have laced up their skates again, much to the delight of their new Oaks Park teammates, who enjoy watching their unison, precision, and expression during each practice.  They are coached by Bob Labriola, of Fountain Valley, CA, and Oaks’ head coach George Kolibaba.  They will be competing in the Veterans division this year.  Flo is also working on contributing to the skating world in other ways and is learning to sew, with the goal of making skating dresses and men’s skating pants.
When not found with wheels on her feet, Flora enjoys talking with her son, daughter, and five grandchildren residing in Pleasant Hill and Castro Valley, CA, cooking for friends, and being in love with her life and “her Bobby”.

Cecilia Welsh

When you look out on the spacious Oaks Park Skating Rink floor it is impossible to miss the vivacious beauty Cecilia Welsh, with her bright red hair and impossibly long stretch.  Cecilia began skating in the Oaks Park Preschool Play & Skate class as a toddler where she both made lifelong friends, and developed a lifelong love of roller skating!

Competing in all disciplines of figure skating, Cecilia has become an accomplished and successful skater.   She has been a national finalist multiple times in both solo dance and freestyle.  Her favorite skating memory was the year that she placed 4th in Juvenile A Singles after making it to the final in 8th.  Currently competing in figures, loops, American solo dance, international solo dance, and free dance, Cecilia has high hopes for this season.  Her goal is to be the 2015 Freshman A Solo Dance National Champion, and to get closer to her ultimate goal of making the world team.  A particularly charming feature of her 2015 season is her choice of freedance music.  She selected to skate her favorite discipline to “Phantom of the Opera” in tribute of her best friend who is an accomplished ballerina and recently appeared in the Portland stage production of the classic musical.

Cecilia is coached by Cindy White, Bob Behrendt, and Sharon Behrendt.  Cindy said of her pupil:

“Cecilia is a delight to coach.  I have been coaching her since she was 7 years old and watching this young lady grow and mature in the sport has been a tremendous pleasure.  She is dedicated to becoming the best skater she can be and she is a great example for the young kids that are coming up behind her.  She is always willing to help the younger kids and they love that she is willing to give them the attention. ”

Bob, who began teaching her a few years ago, remarked that Cecilia is a person who will be successful in whatever she chooses to do, and that her skating has improved leaps and bounds thanks to an increased belief in herself, and that he loves seeing the joy she has come out in her skating.  Sharon says that Cecilia is the most delightful teenager that she’s ever been involved with; never a negative word, never an “I can’t”.  Sharon shares that Cecilia genuinely likes everybody, and as such, every body likes her!

And that is true!  Popular and well liked by her fellow teen aged  skaters, Cecilia’s charm, intelligence, and graciousness extend beyond her own age group  to make her a favorite with the older generation, and, as said by coach Cindy, a terrific role model for younger skaters.  When asked what they think of Cecilia’s skating a handful of little girls in the club had this to say:

Elsie Stephens: “She leans back nicely, and she really flows around the floor.”
Susie MacKay: “Cecilia pushes smoothly, and I love her great knee bend, and rise and fall. And she’s kind of coo-coo, is a big tease, and tells funny stories with cute voices.”
Makayla Simonelic: “She’s awesome.  I like her great posture and how she gets around the floor so easily.”
Annie MacKay: “I dream of having her leg extension and toe point, and love how her shoulders are always back and down and her chin’s up.  She’s beautiful and I want to skate like her!”

As a student Cecilia has been exemplary.
For middle school she attended Winterhaven Math and Science accelerated school, which only accepts highly gifted math and science students.  Math is her favorite subject because, as Cecilia says, in her cheeky manner, “I’m goooooooood at it.”
As a freshman in high school she now attends Jesuit High School in Beaverton, OR,
where she has a 4.1 grade average.  Being a person of exceptional high energy, Cecilia not only is a dedicated skater, but is on her school’s varsity swim team, studies and speaks Chinese, participated in debate, plays golf with her father who is a golf instructor, and is a championship chess player.

Cecilia is a delight to have as part of the Oaks Park Skating Club.  We value her accomplishments, her beautiful skating, her fun personality, and the warmth and kindness she shows to everyone with whom she shares the rink.  Best of lucky, pretty miss Welsh, for a terrific 2015 season!

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