Station: coffee with Lonnie Syme

Lonnie Syme and Eliza Faulkner - Andrew Leong
Lonnie Syme and Eliza Faulkner
— image credit: Andrew Leong

Lonnie Syme has been a lifeguard for most of her life. As a sixteen-year-old she spent her summers guarding in Lake Cowichan before becoming a full-time lifeguard in Duncan.

Lonnie is the aquatic programmer at the Cowichan Aquatic Centre. At 54 — she proudly admits — she is their oldest lifeguard!

If she’s not busy teaching a private swimming lesson, or organizing the facility’s busy schedule, you’ll most likely find Lonnie spending time with her family and husband or organizing her next trip abroad.

What do you do as the aquatic programmer?

I organize the lessons and make lesson plans and the new brochures for each season. I also teach some private lessons too. We also have to keep our qualifications up and every two years we re-do all of our courses so that we’re up to date. If you don’t pass, you don’t work.

How did you get to the position you’re in now?

I started out as a lifeguard in 1976 at the duck pond in Lake Cowichan. I had planned to become a nurse and then got a call one day from the old swimming pool, offering me two weeks of work. I’ve been here ever since.

What do you enjoy most about working at the Aquatic Centre?

I like that everyone from all walks of life comes here to enjoy the facilities. It’s always an upbeat atmosphere because people are coming to work out or do something positive for themselves.

How long have you lived in Cowichan?

My whole life. I was born in Duncan and raised in Lake Cowichan.

What made you stay here in the valley all of these years?

My kids and the work that I do.

What is your favourite memory of living in the Cowichan?

Seeing the community grow so much. It really offers so much for growing families. I love the Cowichan River and watching the tubers go by in the summer. It’s been really nice to see the area evolve.

What is on your bucket list?

I really live it all the time. I do a bit of traveling which I love. I really just want to see my kids grow up healthy and happy.

What is your claim to fame?

Keeping a positive attitude!

What is your current passion?

Spending time with family.

What are you up to these days?

I’m at the stage in life where I’m balancing time with my parents, my children and grandchildren, and my husband, and also finding a happy medium at work — although I do feel like I get paid to play!

I also travel (with my husband) a couple of times a year to Mexico, which I really enjoy!

What does the future hold?

I’d like to take up golf and travel even more! I would love to go The Masters in Augusta, Georgia and also visit my relatives in Sweden and Norway where my parents are originally from.

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