The Post-Journal

Area Woman Shares Family Skating History

Mary Shearman will spend parts of the next five days as one of hundreds of the volunteers who help make the North Atlantic Regional Championships a success.

With hundreds of young skaters trying to take their next step toward figure skating history, the white vest Ms. Shearman wears is a link to the United States’ rich history in a different kind of skating.

Accompanying every patch and pin on her vest is a story about the quiet Olympic history of Ms. Shearman’s father, Richard P. Shearman.

“He had all the (Olympic) patches and emblems,” Ms. Shearman said. “I’m just thankful my mother saved them and gave them to me. I thought, when I knew I’d be volunteering, I know what I can do.”

The nation’s speed skating program took major strides forward during Richard Shearman’s time as a member and secretary of the USA Speed Skating Committee in the 1940s and 1950s.

In 1952, Shearman was manager of the 1952 U. S. Speed Skating Team that took gold and silver medals in the 500-meter speed skating event – a first for the United States in a time when speed skating was dominated by Scandinavians.

When the team competed in Russia in 1955, Shearman was pressed into duty as a cameraman for NBC and appeared on the Today show when they returned, something Mrs. Shearman said left her father, “tongue-tied. It absolutely intimidated him.”

Not that the patches are the only memorable stories Ms. Shearman can tell about her father.

Locally, Shearman was known as an avid outdoorsman who spent much of his time in the area sailing – both during the summer and winter – on Chautauqua Lake and attending Jamestown Falcon games, though Mrs. Shearman says he was known as much for his full-length raccoon coat and handlebar mustache as he was for his Olympic achievements.

“He was a huge Jamestown baseball fan,” she said. “They used to paint on his seat, which was on the left field side, a handlebar mustache on the back of his seat. He had a lot of fun.”

During the winter, Shearman and his children spent much of their free time on skates – though they weren’t training for the Olympic speed skating events. The Shearman clan would make the trip from their home on Alton Place to Roseland Park to skate before returning home and skating in their backyard.

“We used to go there every night, practically,” she said. “I can’t think how many years he made a rink in the backyard for us. I remember going to bed at night and hearing him out there with the hose to put another layer of ice on. A couple of years he strung up lights out there. I’d come home from school, maybe do some homework, eat dinner, skate and then go to Roseland, come home and skate some more.”

For a family raised on speed skates, Mrs. Shearman said she actually started skating on double runner skates – skates with two blades instead of one – and even now, when she skates, has to skate on hockey skates rather than figure skates. While she credits her father with generating a love of skating that endures into her adult years, it is a co-worker at the Chautauqua County Visitor’s Bureau who got Mrs. Shearman interested in volunteering for local skating events.

“The first time I volunteered was for Skate Chautauqua in August,” she said. “I work for the visitor’s bureau part-time all year. Cindy Ferraro is on the board at the Skating Club and she said she was going to be needing some volunteer help. I said, ‘Hey, I’ll do it.’ I volunteered in August so I could get broken in for the regionals and it was a lot of fun. I really enjoyed it. It’s such a great thing for the area,”

The additional financial assistance of the community is critical to the success of the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame.
We gratefully acknowledge these individuals and organizations for their generous support.