Olympian Frances Jones Shares Memories

By Lynn Golodner, 

Frances Jones, resident of Samaritas Senior Living of Bloomfield Hills, led her Lansing Sea Sprites synchronized swimming teams to the 1960 and 1964 Olympics to demonstrate the art and the sport of synchronized swimming decades before it was recognized as an Olympic-worthy competitive category.

Attending the Olympics was “the most joyful time for me and for the girls,” she says. “I am thankful that I grew up with the ability to use the power of positive thinking. My success came from my faith and support. My home was always filled with love and a desire to benefit others.”

Jones is an example of the type of self-starter who inspires women the world over. As a young newlywed and college graduate in 1949 working at the YWCA of Lansing, Jones left her job to create a synchronized swimming club in Lansing with the full support of her late husband Stanley Jones. She built a vibrant, robust club out of nothing, gathering support from friends and acquaintances to afford the talented girls on her team opportunities they never would have had otherwise.

Even when her children came along - son Jeff in 1954 and daughter Candace in 1958 - Jones called on her mother and mother-in-law to watch the children while she toured the globe with her "girls." In her career, Jones was asked to be president of the U.S. Synchronized Swimming Association and co-authored The Components of Synchronized Swimming with Joyce Lindeman. She groomed U.S. Solo and Duet champions and led teams that always ranked in the top 10 for synchronized swimming nationwide.

And when the Olympics accepted Synchronized Swimming as a sport in 1984, Jones was invited to be an official at the Olympics in California that year. She is a member of the Swimming Hall of Fame.

Jones, who does not look 90, credits her sprightly good health to knowing the body - from her education at Eastern Michigan University, where she earned her degree in physical science, and from years of coaching. "I know the human body from stem to stern," says Jones.

She says she is successful due to her "courage, knowledge and education." Jones came from a family where her mother only achieved a 7th-grade education but encouraged her children to go as far as they could. She learned humility and focus from her church-going family, and married a minister’s son who was eminently supportive in a generation when women did not often achieve dreams of their own.

"I know the body," says Jones. "I don't eat foods that are over-cooked. I don't eat a lot of sugar or salt. I drink more water. I run twice around this building daily if I can."

To this day, a number of Jones' swimmers call her and pick her up for get-togethers. Her legacy is long-lasting and deep, as she pays the way for her four grandchildren to attend college, thanks to the hard work and financial savvy of her late husband, who was a Vice President at Unisys. He died in 2008.

"I learned to swim in Thorn Apple Lake," says Jones, mentioning an area south of Grand Rapids where she grew up. "I could dance like Shirley Temple."

an of her generation, Jones is remarkable in the way she did not see obstacles, only opportunities. When the Y would not allow her to start a synchronized swimming club because it did not allow girls to compete, Jones decided to start her own club. "Do what you can handle," her husband told her. And she did.

Jones created the Lansing Sea Sprites and lived in Okemos until she and her husband moved to Orchard Lake, where she created the Aquarius Club. Jones has lived in Bloomfield Hills since 1999. She encourages everyone to watch this year’s Synchronized Swimming competition August 18-19.

“We are proud to have illustrious members of our local communities living with us,” says Sam Beals, CEO, Samaritas. “Mrs. Jones is one excellent example of a hard-working, caring individual who built something that has gone on to inspire and impact generations of people. That is one example of our organization’s mission, to send ripples of transformation into our communities in meaningful ways.”
Frances encourages everyone to watch this years synchronized swimming competition held on August 18-19.

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