February 15th marked the 50th anniversary of the death 18 ice skaters who comprised the U.S. World Figure Skating Team. They left from New York City aboard Belgium's Sabena Slight 548 bound for Brussels and ultimately for Prague to compete. As the plane approached Brussels the morning of February 15, 1961 it crashed killing all aboard including 34 skaters, coaches, officials and family members of the team.
The 1961 U.S. World Figure Skating Team - Who Were They?
The event is being marked by several events including the induction of all 34 persons into the U.S. Figure Skating Hall of Fame. That induction took place Friday, January 28 at the 2011 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Greensboro, N.C. In conjunction with the event the World Figure Skating Museum & Hall of Famewill be hosting a special exhibit on the team.
In her book Indelible Tracings (Stewart & Gray, 2010), Patricia Shelley Bushman has written a well researched account of the team, the tragedy and the effect that it had on the sport of figure skating. Bushman is no stranger to the sport of figure skating. She grew up skating at the Iceland rink in Paramount, California, and has written the narration for many skating events, including the PBS skating show An Evening with Champions. Her brother Ken Shelley won the 1972 U.S. Figure Skating Championship. He also was teamed with JoJo Starbuck and competed in both the 1968 & 1972 Winter Olympics.
Bushman conducted in-depth research and interviews with the skaters family, friends and fellow athletes to create a work that is extensive and some may say complete. The one person she was not able to locate for her book was Robert Dineen Jr. The infant who was orphaned by the crash that killed his parents, Bob and Pat Dineen. They placed third in gold dance at the 1961 Nationals, and earned a berth on the 1961 U.S. World Figure Skating Team. When they left on their fateful trip to Prague, they left the care of their son with Bob's brother Ben Dineen. Bill Jr. was not present at the recent hall of fame induction of his parents. And although he was present at the 40th anniversary, Bushman was not able to make contact with him for her book.
On the evening of February 17th, a special live event occurred in theaters around the county for the premiere of Rise a documentary film commissioned by the U.S. Figure Skating Association about the team.
Produced and directed by 16-time Emmy Award winners Lookalike Productions, Rise documents the sports' growth in popularity over the years and feature various luminaries of American figure skating. Proceeds from Rise will be used to further the mission of U.S. Figure Skating's Memorial Fund, which was established on Feb. 23, 1961, as a living legacy of those who lost their lives. That evening Matt Lauer, co-host of NBC's Today Show will be master-of-ceremonies of the event. Also on that evening Olympic medalists Peter Carruthers and Evan Lysacek joined figure skating legends Peggy Fleming, Dorothy Hamill, Scott Hamilton, Brian Boitano, Michelle Kwan to honor the memory of the team.
Bill and Laurie Hickox - Courtesy of Patti Ballenti
Bradley Lord - Courtesy of Gerard Lane
Pat Dineen, Dona Lee Carrier, Diane Sherbloom - Courtesy of Joan Peterson
Larry Pierce and Diane Sherbloom - Courtesy of Joan Peterson
Laurence Owen, Maribel Vinson Owen, Maribel Y. Owen, Dudley Richards - Courtesy of Dudley Abbe
Ila Ray and Ray Hadley, Jr. - Courtesy of Linda Garl
Roger Campbell, Dona Lee Carrier, Bill Kipp, Rhode Michelson - Courtesy of Wilhelmina Kipp Gozzard
Gregory Kelley - Courtesy of Connie Espander