Woman, 70, swims Pleasant for next generation


FAMILY SUPPORT FOR SWIM — Connie Sasser, 70, holds her newborn grandson in her arms as she is surrounded by family and friends after swimming the length of Pleasant Lake on Aug. 20. (Photo courtesy of the Sasser family)

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

CASCO — Some people are never too old to take on a dare.

Some folks cannot resist a double dare to go jump in a lake.

Ten years ago, a trio of neighbors who live on Pleasant Lake dared one another to swim the length of the lake during their 60th year on earth. Each of them — Ron Burd, Connie Sasser and Debra Shapiro turned 60 a year apart.

At the time, they all agreed to do it again when each of them turned 70 years old.

In 2017, it was Sasser’s turn.

“When we turned 60, ten years seems so far away. Then you are like, ‘Yep, I’ll do it again,’ ” she said. “We all hope to do it when we are 80.”

“Swimming has always been something I enjoy. I grew up swimming in chlorinated pools,” she said.

“It is wonderful to swim every summer here in the lake for the past 35 years. It is clear as any pool, which is pretty amazing,” she said.

VICTORIOUS — Connie Sasser, 70, emerges from the water at Casco Town Beach after swimming the 4½-mile length of Pleasant Lake as a dare and as a way to bring attention to protecting the lake’s water quality. (Photo courtesy of the Sasser family)

According to the website Land Lubber, “Pleasant Lake is a glacial ribbon lake oriented in a north-to-south direction, with a surface area of 1,332 acres and a surface elevation of 427 feet. The Greater Bridgton Lakes Region, an area of western Maine known for some of the most beautiful and cleanest bodies of water and the best brown trout fishing in the state, is home to the northern end of Pleasant Lake.”

As well as fulfilling a friendly challenge, Sasser’s goal was to draw attention to the preservation of Pleasant Lake.

The swim was accomplished “to call attention to the lake and how much it means to all of us. Whether you are swimming, kayaking or fishing, keeping the whole lake clean helps all of those activities to continue,” she said.

Another objective was “to help defray the costs of what we contributed to the (Pleasant Lake-Parker Pond) Dam,” she said.

When Sasser said “we” she was referring to the Pleasant Lake-Parker Pond Lake Association, which needed to replenish the money it set aside which went toward the costs of replacing the dam, she said. In fact, the association paid an independent engineer to assess the dam when it was discovered it was no longer holding back water.

This year, Sasser used her swim as a fundraiser for the lake association.

One vital thing about planning a swim is: The weather dictates the date. So, it is more spontaneous than planned.

On the morning of Aug. 20, the surface of the lake was like that metaphorical mirror.

“When I first started the sun was coming up over the mountains in the east and the water was like glass. There was no one around and you could hear a loon off in the distance,” she said.

“As the sun came up, you got the sense there was a little more activity. I got started around 6:30 a.m.; and around 7:30 a.m., I heard the motors. I could hear the boats,” she said. “It was like the day had started on the lake. I could hear people in their houses.”

“It was very, very peaceful. I got into a rhythm. I felt like I could swim forever,” she said.

Sasser’s family may have not donned wetsuits like she did, but they played a supportive role during her swim.

First off, on the day of the swim, there was a bass tournament scheduled. Despite the possible challenge of motorized boat traffic, Sasser decided the lake conditions were too perfect to pass up.

Her husband dropped her off at her starting point, the Otisfield Town Beach. Then, unbeknownst to her, he zipped over to the Casco Day Beach and talked to the people readying for the bass tourney.

“He asked them to be watchful of me,” she said. “I didn’t know this. I was swimming along people’s buoys. They were all polite. All of them along the side that I actually saw were pulling up slowly to the side or drifting and obviously paying attention. I got the sense they were looking for me.”

“They would wave or cheer me on. There was a real feeling of comradery,” she said.

Her husband had told them, “Just so you know there is a woman swimming and here is why she is swimming,” Sasser said. “They took the message to heart. They were mindful that I was in the water and why I was in the water.”

“The first part of the swim, nobody was with me. But about halfway through, my daughter joined me in a kayak and gave me hot tea and a banana,” Sasser said.

“All of my swimming friends were waiting at Casco beach and some of my family, including my grandson, who was born this summer,” she said.

Sasser said has heard remarks along the line of the swim was quite an accomplishment, especially for someone her age.

“I am pretty confident most of the people who say that comment — I don’t think they could swim the whole lake. It is not about the speed, it is just that you get in and you swim for 4½ miles,” she said.

Exercising “on a regular basis, helps you stay in the game,” she said.

Typically, Sasser swims about a mile at a time, slightly less than neighbor Ron Burd’s daily regimen. In fact, Sasser was heading out for a swim on Tuesday afternoon before the lake got too cold.

According to Sasser, the swim at age 60 and do it again at 70 “was a challenge for each of us. I have never swam 4½ miles before that. But I said, ‘Sure, if you do it, I’ll do it.’ ”

Sasser said she feels fortunate to live on Pleasant Lake, where homeowners and residents are active participants in the protection of the water quality. It is something that she now does for the younger generation, her grandchildren.

Pleasant Lake is a body of water she has enjoyed for 35 years.

“We even had the baby in the lake this summer, although he thought it was kind of cold,” she said. “I have four children and six grandchildren. Four of my grandchildren come from Florida and use every inch of the lake.”

“We all truly enjoy the lake,” she said.

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