For Janice Elizabeth “Betsy” Ross, being in the water meant she was in her element. She loved anything to do with swimming and aquatics, and her passion for the pool led her to swim competitively as a young woman. Her commitment to the sport shines through in the box of medals she amassed during her short career. And when Betsy wasn’t swimming, she often worked as a lifeguard to ensure that others could experience the joy of swimming.
When Betsy decided to leave Pennsylvania with her husband Keith for a new life in Vancouver, she found a piece of home at the Marshall Community Center pool. Here, with her characteristic selflessness and dedication, she became manager and served for 12 years. At the helm, she worked tirelessly to make the aquatics programs safe and accessible for as many as possible, but nothing warmed her heart more than smiling kids and seniors.
In fact, the seniors inspired her so much that she initiated the pool’s first arthritis program, raising money for a portable ramp to make the journey in and out of the water less painful for those with aching joints. She would beam as seniors celebrated the fact that they no longer needed their walkers because of the benefits of the new program. Her passion for aquatics overflowed into many hearts and nurtured our community, but her aspirations for the future of the aquatics program were unexpectedly cut short one November afternoon in 1995. While working at the pool she loved, Betsy suffered a fatal brain aneurysm. She was just 39.
In the midst of this tragic loss, Keith Ross decided to honor his beloved wife’s spirit by continuing her work. He created The Betsy Ross Aquatic Trust for the benefit of a strong, accessible community aquatics program. He believes wholeheartedly that “Betsy’s vision didn’t stop when she was taken from us.” Because of that, her legacy has continued to ripple outward through the trust’s growth, stewardship and impact.
Over the years, the trust has made significant contributions to the Marshall pool. Chief among them were a $30,000 gift to build a new water slide and purchase much-needed defibrillators that have enhanced pool safety. The trust has also funded access to swimming for hundreds of low-income kids. Betsy’s passion lives on in each of their smiles and still inspires new swimmers to go the distance.