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”.