An ice skating instructor for decades, Lynda Hathaway shares her love of skating with multiple generations
Anna Brown of Windham learned how to skate 26 years ago, when she was 5. Her instructor became her mentor and lifelong friend and inspired her to eventually coach and teach skating herself.
So it’s a no-brainer who will be called upon if and when Brown’s 3 1/2-year-old, Addie, is ready for private skating lessons.
It’ll be Lynda Hathaway, who at 74 puts in long hours every day as skating director of the William B. Troubh Ice Arena in Portland.
“Addie already loves Lynda,” Brown says, explaining that her daughter caught the skating bug early after watching her mom on the ice so much and is taking group lessons. “She always seeks her out and has to say ‘hi’ to her when she’s on the ice. She’ll skate by and give her a big wave.”
Hathaway has that effect on people, her former student and now co-teacher and coach says.
“Lynda came to my wedding, and she’s certainly someone I can talk to. She’s always able to come up with the perfect answers. And she’s always been a wonderful person to look up to.”
Hathaway, who has lived in Yarmouth since her sophomore year of high school, got hooked on skating as a young girl when an older cousin spent a lot of time with her family while based in Boston in the military.
“He stayed with us on weekends and really supported my skating. He built a rink in our back yard!” Hathaway says. “I think it was his way of giving back because my parents were sort of taking care of him, and this was something he could do. He really helped me with my love of skating. I also remember going out to skate all day, climbing over logs to get to little bogs and ponds, and my mother bringing sandwiches down to us.”
When her father took a job with what is now Shaw’s Supermarkets in Maine, Hathaway went to North Yarmouth Academy, where her best friend’s dad was the hockey coach. That team was for boys only, but her friend and she would play ice hockey when the boys weren’t practicing.
“Skating was always strictly for fun for me,” says Hathaway, who was also very much into horseback riding at the time. “And I still love it and promote it.”
Hathaway recalls taking her young daughters skating at the Bowdoin College rink when they were little, and then to the now-defunct Riverside Arena in Portland, where the director, realizing she could skate well, asked if she might consider helping to teach.
“It sounded fun, you know, a part-time job doing something I really loved.”
“Skating was always strictly for fun for me. And I still love it.”
But as life often goes, one thing led to another, and soon volunteering to teach a few classes turned into running Yarmouth’s skating program as well as teaching, starting shows and coaching.
She refined her teaching style—emphasizing parent-student-coach communication—when an accomplished ice dancer moved to Maine and took her under his wing.
“He was a brilliant and good teacher, and I am a learner, so I admired him and learned a lot from him. From there, I ended up directing many programs around the area. The Biddeford Learn to Skate program. Auburn’s Learn to Skate program. Yarmouth’s. Gorham’s. NYA’s private skating program, and ultimately the Portland Ice Arena (now Troubh Ice Arena), which has been my home away from home for a very long time.”
She found a kindred spirit there in Ann Hanson, her best friend in skating since 1983, who still teaches with her. Their philosophy about what they wanted in a skating program was in sync.
“We were unified by a quest for quality, affordable lessons that were fully inclusive for people with special needs, adults and kids. Family-oriented programs. And we set high standards and fought for ice availability for figure skating.”
Her former student says Hathaway’s stamina—routinely putting in 14-hour days, including at least four hours a day on the ice and splitting her time between arenas in Portland and Falmouth—is more than impressive.
“I forget that she’s 74 all the time! She doesn’t act like it,” says Brown, noting that Hathaway recently put other instructors in charge of higher-level classes and opted to teach the much more demanding youngest kids herself.
“She took on the 4-year-olds, which is tricky. She’s teaching them how to fall, and there’s a lot of falling! She is fabulous—she can still jump, and she’ll jump into a spin to demonstrate. She’s still teaching the same as she did 30 years ago.”
Hathaway says she is grateful to still have a lot of energy but admits the long days can be grueling and all encompassing. No matter how much endurance you have in your mid-70s, heading out onto the ice by 6 a.m. is tough some days.
“It is a huge amount of work and I have tried to retire a couple of times. They started a scholarship fund in my name, and I thought I was done,” she says. “But I’m still here. I know my body, and I’ll know when it’s really time to stop.”
Being single, with her daughters out of state in Utah and California, Hathaway says the rink communities have become her foundation and second family.
“What’s the alternative?” she says. “I love the interactions and the relationships and responsibility I have to the athletes. And I still really love teaching.”
Patricia McCarthy is a longtime writer and editor. She has three daughters, lives in Portland and also has a photography business (patriciamccarthy.com).