Grande Dame Award
2000 JEAN BRATTAIN and CONNIE SESSIONS
A pair is a pair is a pair. And they are a pair. In synchronized swimming, it's a duet; in diving, it's synchronized diving; in water polo, they are the forward and goalie; and, in swimming, they tie for the gold medal.
As the International Swimming Hall of Fame Grand Dames, they are inseparable in service, volunteerism, grace and commitment for which the Hall of Fame and the Hall of Fame Dames stand. Jean Brattain and Connie Sessions both emulate the posture of Grande Dame.
Connie had her beginning in San Francisco. She and sister Vicki started swimming at the famed Fleishhacker Pool. Connie was a self-taught swimmer, but persistent. She was a Girl Scout who later hung around the Crystal Plunge Pool with swimmer Ann Curtis and Coach Charlie Sava. Sava said Connie was a beautiful swimmer but would never have any speed. Over the next few years, she proved him right because she became a beautiful water show acrobatic swimmer. By 1949 she was performing in the Larry Crosby Water Show at Soldier Field in Chicago and then the next year traveled with the Buster Crabbe Aquacades, a tour that began in New Haven, Connecticut and stopped in selected cities west to Los Angeles. Her twin sister Vicki also excelled winning the platform and springboard gold medals at the 1948 London Olympic Games. Connie ended up marrying a swimmer friend and Vicki married her coach, Hall of Famer Lyle Draves. Connie moved to Florida and raised a family. When her young daughter needed swimming lessons for water safety sake, Connie did the teaching and then continued her work in teaching water safety as an instructor for the American Red Cross including teaching survival swimming to infants 15 months to preschool age.
Jean's years of volunteer service began in her home state of Ohio where she was a leader in the Scouting movement in both the Brownies and Girl Scouts. Her husband was in the retail lumber business and following World War II, the family moved from place to place to meet the lumber demand. First in Lebanon, Ohio, she helped to integrate an all black troop at a time in the 1940's when that was uncommon. She loved the out-of-doors and after moving to Wellston, Ohio, she took charge of the local 4-H Club, taking the kids on overnight camping trips. After her children had grown, she and her husband of 59 years, Harold, moved to Hollywood, Florida (1981), where she became a member of the Hall of Fame Dames. She also works as Alice Kempthorne's assistant in keeping of the records for the Florida Gold Coast of USA Swimming.
Jean and Connie can often be found on the pool deck during the College Coaches Swim Forum each winter, on the Fort Lauderdale Beach during the Ocean Mile Swim, serving meals at various ISHOF receptions and events and giving tours to young school children and senior adults in the ISHOF Museum and Exhibit building. They are often spotted in their blue and white Dames uniforms meeting buses of youngsters or senior citizens. As museum guides, they have found creative ways to appeal to each group's specific interests, whether it be selecting age-appropriate films for the kids or providing medals and trophies for blind children to feel and study. Over the years, both Connie and Jean have served as President of the Dames as well as Vice President, Secretary and Treasurer. Jean has served on the Library Advisory Committee of the Henning Library helping to set policy and performing duties of assistance in library function.
Connie is the mother of four daughters and four grandchildren. Jean is mother to her son and daughter, five grandchildren and two great grandchildren. Both are family oriented individuals whose values of character, thoughtfulness and helpfulness flow over in to their associations with everyone connected to ISHOF.
They are both Grand Dames of inseparable quality.
Recipients of the Grand Dame Award.
Alice Lord Landon
Aileen Riggin Soule
Norma Dean Maxwell