Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Longtime Red Cross swimming instructor Jean Minnella will be retiring at the end of the month.
City swim program director retiring
After 35 years of teaching the children of Cortland water safety and how to swim, Jean Minnella will be stepping down as director of the Cortland County Red Cross’ Learn to Swim program after lessons end on Friday.
Minnella has been the director of the program for the last seven years but has been actively involved since 1979, originally starting out as a student aid and since then for three weeks during the summer, she has helped teach children and instructors alike how to be safe in the water at no cost to the children. Minnella said she got started because she wanted her son to learn how to swim in the program, but he was a few months shy of the 7-year-old minimum age requirement to participate unless one of his parents was a volunteer.
“We still do that today,” she said. “That’s how we get a lot of our new volunteers. And so I did that and I had previously taught swimming — I was a WSI (water safety instructor) in Syracuse and several other places before, so I was happy to get back into the swimming.”
She would continue to work as a swim aid and an instructor until the mid-1980s, when she started coordinating the swim program with Gail Phillips who died in January.
Minnella said during that time, she and Phillips began updating the program, using computers to store information about volunteer staff and student progress, helping modernize the program which has been around since the 1950s.