CUMBERLAND — Vickie Murray Aman has been working at the Riverside YMCA for the past 44 years. She is the matriarch of a family who has had a longstanding relationship with the local Y.
Vickie’s brother, Jack Murray, brought her into the YMCA family. Murray worked at the YMCA from 1967 to 1973 before leaving to go to chiropractor school. His sister joined the YMCA staff in 1969.
Murray started by teaching swim lessons because he was a member of the swim team as a child. He also taught life-saving classes, gym classes on Saturday mornings, and even worked as a janitor to earn more money for school. Murray coached the youth swim team for a year.
Murray said that being around the water as a youth really encouraged him and his sister to help others learn to swim and that “watching the satisfaction of kids learning to swim the length of the pool” was one of the best parts of working at the YMCA.
Swimming lessons are beneficial to young kids because it gives them structure, teaches skills on water safety and “if they can learn to swim in 10 feet, then they can avoid drowning situations,” he said.
Over the years, working together at the YMCA has really strengthened the family’s bonds and relationships, according to Aman. She said they are a very tight-knit family that has so much in common, and that they love sharing stories with one another and are always willing to help each other in any given situation.
Aman said the most fulfilling part of her job is seeing the progress of the swimmers she has taught over the years and what they’re able to accomplish. She said that some people, older folks especially, have the desire to learn to swim on their bucket list and that “seeing their faces when they learn how to is a great feeling.”
The YMCA is a great place to work because it teaches responsibility, and teaching others is a very rewarding job, Aman said.
Her daughter, Tricia Witt, taught CPR and first aid at the YMCA for several years before going to work as a respiratory therapist in Winchester, Va. Witt said that she grew up spending a lot of time at the old YMCA, and between her family ties and the benefits of the organization, she really felt that it was a great place to work.
The YMCA is beneficial to the youth of Cumberland because “it helps kids meet new friends, keeps them busy and helps keep their mind on other things,” Witt said.
She said the best feeling was being able to teach skills to kids that they can use in real world situations. She cited an example of how one of her CPR students helped save a man who was struggling in the water at Rocky Gap State Park.
Aman’s two nieces, Anna Murray Stewart and Jamie Murray Bailey, also worked as lifeguards for several years before moving on to other jobs. Her 16-year-old grandson, Logan O’Brien, is currently a lifeguard at the YMCA and teaches swim lessons just like his grandmother.
Vickie’s 13-year-old granddaughter appears to be next in line to keep the family tradition going as she has already expressed interest in being a lifeguard, according to Aman. She currently helps her grandma teach swimming lessons from time to time.
The relationship and family bond between the YMCA and Aman’s family is very unique and she hopes to keep the tradition going as long as possible.