Woman, 91, conquers water fear

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After 91 years spent afraid of water, Ida Schroeder took her first boat ride on Flathead Lake recently.

For as long as Ida Schroeder can remember, she has been afraid of water. At 91, she decided it was time to confront her fear.

She can’t recall any water-related trauma happening to her. Schroeder said she never had a near-drowning incident or other water accident.

Her fear was simply a case of that unexplained emotional gripping of the stomach that many people experience over things such as heights or enclosed spaces.

“I just couldn’t brave going in the water,” she said. “I wasn’t raised near water.”

A Flathead Valley resident all her life, she was born along with twin sister Irene in May 1921 on her grandparents’ farm in LaSalle, an area near Glacier Park International Airport. She and her sister, now deceased, were close friends all their lives and enjoyed living in LaSalle.

“It was a close community,” Schroeder recalled.

There weren’t any significant bodies of water in the area of their farm. Transportation was slow, and the roads were rough during her youth, so she rarely visited the lakes or recreational water areas around the valley.

“I didn’t get to Kalispell very often,” she said. “It was horse and wagon back then. That’s a long time ago.”

After school, she worked a few odd jobs, and then married William Schroeder and had two boys, Arthur and Victor. The two farmed in Whitefish raising cows, grain and other livestock.

As an adult, water was not part of Schroeder’s recreational interests. She preferred making quilts and other projects, which she often entered in the fair and for which she won ribbons.

“I’m a homebody,” she said.

She just won a blue ribbon in the 2012 Northwest Montana Fair for one of her wall hanging kit creations.

“It was a pair of boots with carnations,” Schroeder said. “It was pretty.”

Her husband passed away, and then she lost her twin sister two years ago. Schroeder continued living on her own until last April, when she decided to moved into WEL-Life assisted living on Three Mile Drive in Kalispell to “take life easy.”

She enjoys living at WEL-Life, especially outings with the friends she has made there. It was the fun she has with them that convinced her to face her fear of water.

Schroeder was invited on a boat cruise on Flathead Lake with several others about a week ago.

“Everybody else was going,” she said. “I made up my mind to go. I thought, ‘If everybody else makes it, I’ll make it.’”

When the day arrived, Schroeder said she was excited and not nervous. After 91 years, she was finally taking a boat ride.

She was properly outfitted in a life jacket aboard a recreational boat that belongs to one of the other residents.

“Oh, it was a beautiful day, and the lake was calm,” she said. “It was a perfect day for someone who had never been out before.”

The cruise was capped off with going out to lunch.

To her surprise, Schroeder absolutely loved the boating experience. She said she didn’t have much trouble getting on board with people helping her and her walker to steady herself.

She said the experience shows that a person is never too old to conquer fear and try a new experience.

“I’m going to go again at the end of the month if they have room for me,” she said.

Reporter Candace Chase may be reached at 758-4436 or by email at cchase@dailyinterlake.com.

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